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Five tips for talking to an aging parent about long-term care

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, not every older adult is able to shelter at home indefinitely.

There are some older people who need long-term care to continue to thrive. Sometimes, that situation may be apparent when family members who live at a distance visit for the holidays. Today, those visits may occur via Zoom or other online means, but the need for long-term care may be apparent nevertheless.

So how do you talk with an aging parent about the need for long-term care?

Certainly, we recognize that we want to care for our parent as well as they cared for us. After all, it’s the least we can do for all the sacrifices they’ve made for us.

However, for a variety of reasons, it may be impossible for us to care for an older adult ourselves. That realization is often what brings many adult children and aging parents to consider long-term care as an option. But, again, how best to do that?

Preparing to talk about long-term care …

This may be a difficult conversation, so be sure to keep an open mind, do your research and talk somewhere private. It’s also important to remember this will be a conversation you may likely have more than once, so be patient as well.

Try following these tips to help ease your parent into talking about long-term care while having a successful conversation.

1.    Choose the right time and place. It’s often best to bring up the subject of long-term care naturally as opposed to springing it on a loved one. Choose a time of day that your loved one is often in a good mood and ensure there are few distractions present. Then, make sure to talk in private.

2.    Keep an open mind and be understanding. Loved ones are likely to have their own opinions about long-term care, so be sure to listen. Remember, it’s not easy to leave the home they know and love, even if they know they’ll be gaining so much more.

3.    Ask them what they are looking for in a long-term care community. It’s a good idea to explore local options so that they can see what is offered near them. Point out the programs or activities they may like, see if the phots of the apartments interest them and gain their feedback. This process can open the door to further discussion and allow loved ones to open up about what they are looking for.  

4.    Talk to your friends and family. Discussing long-term care with them can provide insight. They may be able to share how they’ve best approached the conversation with their family members, give you advice on what not to say and share where their loved ones have enjoyed living and more. This step may also provide you with a circle of support to turn to.

5.    Give your loved one time to think. Let a loved one consider what he or she would like in a long-term care community. Give it time and then bring up the subject again and see if your loved one would like to tour a community or two. This step could make the conversation even easier for next time or help to move forward with a decision.

Cindy Bonney, NHA, MBA, PCHA
Vice President of Sales and Marketing, Diakon Senior Living