Talking with parents about a retirement home

October 13, 2015

If you have a conversation with your parents about a nursing home, handle the matter respectfully, acknowledge their point of view and give them space. Here are tips in handling the conversation.

Talking with parents about a retirement home

1. Make the discussion about you

  • No matter what, it stings when people are told that they may no longer be able to live independently. You can minimize that sting by making the matter about you and not your parents.
  • For example, you can say something like, "I am having a hard time sleeping and focusing at work because I worry you may fall again," instead of, "You need to go into a home because you can't be alone."

2. Give parents time and space

  • Chances are you will have several, if not many, such conversations. Aging people need time to come to terms with the idea. Bring the matter up casually and drop it as necessary.
  • Give them space by employing the principle of focusing the matter on you. For instance, you can say, "Dad, it would help me feel better if we check out a couple of retirement homes. Will you humour me? You don't need to make any decisions, but I'm curious to see what they are like."
  • If your parents have friends in a retirement home, use that to your advantage. You can suggest you visit them together.

3. When matters are urgent

  • In many cases, something bad happens to parents living alone. For instance, they accidentally set something on fire or fall and have no way of contacting anyone. These occurrences are no guarantee that parents will see the wisdom in moving. In these cases, you may need to assemble a team of your parents' loved ones and health staff and stage an intervention.
  • Regardless, it is essential that you give your parents as much control as possible. For example, instead of saying, "We're moving you into a home right now. Stop arguing," you could say, "Which nursing homes would you like to visit? Your friend Jimmy is in this one."

Point out flexibility

  • Many homes allow prospective clients to do trial runs for up to a month. Explain to your parents that they can return home if they do not feel comfortable. That peace of mind may be the push they need to try out a facility.
  • These conversations are best started as early and proactively as possible. They will likely proceed gradually, with parents taking their time to warm to the idea. Give them as much control as you can and keep the focus on yourself. Your parents do not want to feel judged; they need love and respect.


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