How to Talk to Parents About Senior Living

Father and son

Being an adult child to an aging parent comes with a lot of hard decisions and difficult conversations. For example, you may recognize that it’s time for your aging family member to get help…


Maybe Mom is reaching deeper stages of Alzheimer’s and home care can’t meet all of her needs anymore. Or perhaps you’ve noticed that your Dad, who is living on his own, is having trouble with certain activities of daily living. Whatever the case may be, you could be dealing with a parent who may not be willing to make the transition quite so easily.

Starting the Conversation…

Approximately 10,000 baby boomers will turn 65 every day between now and 2030. This new generation of seniors wants to be defined by potential, not limitations. They may see moving into senior living as an end to freedom, but it’s important that you don’t start the conversation that way.

It’s important to let your parent know from the beginning that they are not aging out of relevance, but rather senior living is a new opportunity to seek out the connections to possibility, purpose, and passion that sustain them through every stage of life.

The other equally important part about starting this conversation is to let them know they are not alone during this critical stage in life. Finding a long-term care community is a decision that you and your parent should make together.

If you’re at a loss of how to involve your loved one, keep on reading. In this guide, we’re covering the do’s and don’ts for working together with Mom and Dad to choose a senior living community.

The Dos

DO ask questions to find out about their current living situation

The first mistake would be to outright tell your parent that moving into senior living is going to happen no matter what. Instead, begin with asking simple questions to get the conversation going and understand the full story of how your parent lives.

Start out by asking things like, “Mom, have you had any falls recently?” or “Dad, I notice that your fridge is always empty when we visit? Is it becoming difficult to cook?” Listen to what your parent has to say first, which can then help jumpstart the conversation.

DO include your parent in your research and the decision-making process

Once again, finding a senior living community is a decision that you and your parent are making together. Demonstrate your commitment to collaborating together in a practical way.

Bring your laptop over to their house and pull up the senior living and retirement communities in their local area. When you find a place that might be able to meet their level of care needs, ask your loved one his or her opinion of the place right away.

DO use the word “we”

When you’re discussing senior care with your parent, it’s easy for loved ones to experience a “you vs. them” mentality. After all, from your parent’s perspective, you’re suggesting a major life change that many older adults are wary of.

Work to overcome any tension by using the word “we” or “us” in your conversations. It demonstrates that you care about their well-being in addition to your own. A few examples include “Mom, I think we need to find help so you’re less likely to fall. Do you think we can research some nearby assisted living communities?” or “Dad, I want to make the best decision for us. Which community looks most inviting to you?”

DO address their fears

More than likely, your parent will have some fears about senior care that include:

  • Loss of independence
  • Running out of money
  • Having to leave their home
  • Losing touch with loved ones
  • Having to depend on others
  • Not being able to drive
  • Being isolated and lonely

However, the key is to not simply write off these objections—instead, it’s to provide solid solutions for your parent’s needs. For instance, if Mom fears that she’ll be lonely and isolated in her room, find a senior living community’s activity schedule and look over it together. If Dad is worried about losing his ability to drive, discuss the outings into town the community offers. Don’t ignore your parent’s fears…be sure to talk about practical solutions.

DO take your parent for a tour

Once you’ve found an independent living, assisted living or memory care option, your next step is to schedule some tours with your loved one. A community tour can relieve Mom or Dad’s doubts and fears while also bringing you peace of mind that you’re leaving your loved one in the hands of capable caregivers. As your loved one sees residents laughing in the cafe or enjoying the on-site amenities, moving to a senior living community may look less scary and, on the other hand, even more appealing.

DO attend events

Another way you can help your parent be involved in the decision is through community events. Social activities can help your loved one enjoy some fun, meet other seniors, and explore the community up close. For instance, ask your Monarch community of choice for the upcoming social calendar and ask if there are events that non-residents can attend.

DO look into respite options

Committing to moving to a senior living community may be daunting for your family member. Instead of letting uncertainty create a deadlock between both you and your parents, maybe check out respite options first. For example, many Monarch communities allow Mom or Dad to stay with us temporarily and experience our health services, social activities, and amenities firsthand. It’s the perfect opportunity to remove pressure from your parent to make an immediate decision.

The Don’ts

DON’T avoid the conversation altogether

You can’t make a decision with your parent if you ignore the elephant in the room. Skirting around the topic of assisted living can create unnecessary tension and make the transition all the more difficult. Purposefully involve Mom or Dad in open, honest conversations. Ask questions, acknowledge the changes you see in your loved one’s life, look for feedback, and talk through what he or she is thinking and feeling.

DON’T allow your emotions to hijack your thinking

As you talk with your parent about senior care, you may experience emotions of fear or even frustration. Maybe Mom is unwilling to move into a certain place, or perhaps Dad doesn’t want to accept that he needs the help you simply can’t provide. Whatever your situation, stay in control of your emotions. If your parent becomes unreasonable, try to see it from their perspective. For instance: “I know this must be difficult for my Mom to give up her house. It’s not that she’s truly upset with me…it’s just hard for her to accept change.”

DON’T ignore your elderly parent’s emotions

While you stay in control of your emotions, remember… Don’t ignore your parent’s emotions. Sympathize with your parent. Offer to have him or her talk with a friend who has moved to a senior living community. Pick up the phone, and talk to your parent about topics other than senior care. The key is to acknowledge what your parent is going through and express both sensitivity and understanding.

DON’T use fear or guilt to pressure your parent into making a decision

As it’s a very stressful situation to choose a community, it may be tempting to let the stress get to you and say things like “You’re making this stressful on all of us, so please make up your mind” or “By the time you make a decision, it might be too late.”

It’s true—eventually, you and your loved one need to come to a decision, but as your parent makes up his or her mind, don’t resort to using fear and guilt because that will only make the situation even more stressful on everyone.

DON’T procrastinate

The last thing you want is to wait until your parent has suffered a health problem, fall, or has begun to develop memory loss. In those cases, you might be making the decision under duress. Once Mom or Dad experiences a health crisis, it will be more difficult to have important conversations and work together to make a decision. Be sure you involve your parent before it’s too late and before you have to make decisions on your own under extreme stress. Talk to Us!

For seniors seeking modernity, relevance and possibility, Monarch reinvents residential communities as thriving ecosystems that support better living through holistic care and joyful connection. Contact Us today if you need help with this conversation or to schedule a tour.