Talking to a Parent with Early Stage Dementia about Assisted Living

You’ve tried to convince your older parent with an early stage of dementia to move to assisted living, but they refuse to consider it. Now whenever you try to bring up the subject, you’re met with stony silence.

Of course, you wouldn’t be pushing so hard if you weren’t worried about their safety. Maybe they’ve been losing weight because they’re not eating properly, they’re not taking their medications, they’ve had a bad fall, they’ve been hospitalized recently, or they’re making poor decisions. The list goes on.

But here’s the thing.: pushing harder until they finally see the light and agree to move might not be the best approach. First, you might want to take a step back.

  1. Imagine things from your parent’s perspective

Imagine if someone questioned your ability to make your own decisions. You’d push back. Now imagine that person was one of your own kids. Someone whose diapers you changed, whose school lunches you packed, and whose growth into a happy, well-adjusted adult you did your best to nurture.

Is it any wonder that parents resist the advice of their children? No matter how old you get, your parent will always carry around a younger version of you inside their head. Who are you to tell them how to run their lives?

So, before you label your aging parent as stubborn for staying put and ignoring their own safety, think about what you may be asking them to give up. Perhaps it’s a home full of memories. Or a sense of control over their own lives, particularly if they’re facing a health crisis.

Avoid backing them into a corner. Invite them to share their concerns. Listen. Don’t debate what they’re feeling. Show that you’re taking them seriously by offering to help them come up with a plan that takes their concerns into account. Let them see that you’re on their side.

  1. Emphasize the benefits of a move as opposed to the need for care

Few people are happy to be told they need care, even if it’s true. That’s why focusing on the advantages of a move over the necessity of a move can get you more traction. Are there certain aspects of living in their own home that your parent isn’t enjoying anymore? Maintaining their own property? Making their own meals? Climbing the stairs? Feeling lonely? Point out how moving to assisted living could eliminate these hassles. Plus, remind them that selling their home could free up equity they could spend on things that are important to them.

  1. Mention friends and family who’ve already moved to senior living

Despite your best intentions, your parent may still be reluctant to take your advice. But if they were to hear from someone in their social circle who’s already moved to a senior living community and is enjoying life there, that could be a game-changer. If you know of such a person, don’t be afraid to drop their name into a conversation. “Hey, Mom. I heard so-and-so moved to such-and-such a place…”

  1. Give them time to think about it

Remember: you’re asking your parent to make a major life change. If at all possible, give them time to sit with it for a while. Avoid nagging them. Don’t forget how much you hated it when they nagged you as a kid. More often than not, it probably just made you dig in your heels.

  1. What to do if they still refuse

Even though your parent is experiencing the early stages of dementia, as long as they understand the risks of living in their current home and the possible consequences, it’s their decision to make.

But if their judgment or decision-making abilities are impaired – and they can’t make an informed decision about where they should be living – someone may need to step in and make the decision for them. Rules about who can take on this responsibility vary from state to state, but the Alzheimer’s Association provides a useful overview of this issue.

If you’re having trouble figuring this out, contact us, we can help. We guide families through these sorts of situations every day. Also, check out this related article: How to Talk to Someone with Alzheimer’s or Other Types of Dementia: 5 Tips.

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