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Talking to an elderly parent or loved one about the eventual need for assisted living can be difficult. This article gives 7 tips for discussing and planning for your loved one’s needs, in a way that respects their opinions and honors their feelings. In following these guidelines, you should pave the way for a smooth transition for your loved one, from independence to assisted living.
1. Begin this conversation well before a crucial need for assisted living arises. Make a plan, with steps to take when certain things happen, such as when they can no longer bathe or dress unassisted, or remember to take medications, or when they begin to have trouble balancing and have fallen. Make a list of these events and responses, and come to an agreement with your parent that when these events occur, the plan will be put into action.
2. When making your plan, include visits to assisted living homes. Some homes allow day care, so that your parent can spend time at the home, participating in activities, and meeting residents and caregivers. Engage your parent, and let them be a part of the decision as much as possible. They will feel empowered and when it comes time to move, less resistant because they have been included in the decision making.
3. Include siblings in the planning discussion, and come to an agreement so that there aren’t conflicting messages. When the time comes to act, disagreements between siblings can send a conflicting message to the parent, which creates anything but a smooth transition.
4. Consider your parent’s perspective. The elderly don’t always view a move as in their best interest. They want to feel that they are still independent and in control of their lives. Moving out of their home can feel as if their world is shrinking; that they are at the end of life, and at the mercy of strangers.
5. Communicate, communicate, communicate. Dialogue with your elderly parents and offer options rather than advice. Listen to their concerns and ideas, and don’t impose your values on them. Then express your concerns, and then listen. Don’t fill any silence with your solutions. This is a highly charged topic and can feel emotionally heart-breaking. Give them time to respond.
6. Give your parents respect, and be gentle with them, as this is not an easy decision, made lightly. They have lived a long time, have experienced and learned much, and probably have made numerous sacrifices raising you and giving you the life you have. While we envision old age to be a rewarding time, it is also a time of loss. As we age we lose health and vitality, mobility and control, loved ones, independence, to name a few things.
7. Reassure your parents. Let them know you will always be a part of their lives, and that you are there to watch out for them like they have watched out for you. Help them gently transition from independence to reliance on you. Demonstrate they can trust your judgment, by listening and valuing their opinions, and respecting and honoring what they have done for you. As they embark on this stage of their journey, be conscious of their emotional needs and concerns, and assure them you will always be there for them.