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Having the conversation about assisted living may be easier than you think

If your parents aren't safe living on their own anymore, it may be hard to have the conversation about moving into assisted living. Here are some dos and don'ts about how to broach the subject with love and respect for their choices.

Sponsored Story By American Senior Communities

You might not believe it, but mom and dad may be happy that you’re now grown and gone. They may now want a smaller home with less responsibility. Or they may even need help but want to remain independent.

Many adult children agonize over talking to aging parents about their long-term care. But having the conversation about it may not be as difficult as you think.

With today’s senior communities, a move to the right community might be the start of your parents’ new life. Senior communities are often an opportunity for seniors to explore new interests, focus on hobbies and make new friends. So, start the conversation by offering your help in a possible plan to move aging parents to a senior or assisted living community.

"The biggest barrier for families trying to have this conversation is fear," said Mindy Balka, director of business development for the Senior Living Division of American Senior Communities. "Kids are fearful they're going to upset their parents. They're afraid of change, or they're in denial that their parents actually need assistance."

So how do you begin having the conversation about moving parents into assisted living? First, let your parents make their own decision. You might find they know what is best for themselves.

Acknowledge your feelings. Many adult children may struggle with feelings of guilt over moving parents into assisted living. Give yourself space to feel those feelings and grieve this new step you may need to take.

Talk with your siblings first. If you have siblings, it's important to involve them in the process. Get everyone on the same page before you approach your parents. It may be helpful to designate one sibling to be the spokesperson.

Keep it casual. "It's important to plant the seed as early as possible," Balka said. "Make it part of everyday conversation so it's not so serious." If you make the conversation loving, genuine and casual, it can help your family make the decision proactively and not reacting to a crisis situation.

Talk to them one-on-one. "We encourage families not to have this conversation in a group setting because parents may shut down," Balka said. This can be especially difficult in families with multiple adult children and spouses, where a group meeting can play out like an intervention.

“If a parent shuts down, it could be that they were being told what was going to happen versus being a part of the conversation,” Balka said. “Take a break in the conversation, lighten the mood and ask about discussing it further.”

Ask them to share their feelings. Many aging parents feel fear at this stage of life. They are afraid to admit they need help because they don't want to be a burden on their children. They may be afraid to start over in a new place or a new city.

Balka has suggestions about how to bring this up.

"Maybe you're visiting your mom and say, 'Mom, I'm worried about you being alone. What can we do together to make sure you're safe and happy?'" Balka said. "Ask questions and allow her to share her feelings. Open those doors to allow for other conversations."

Be patient and be kind. It can be hurtful to an aging parent to hear your frustration about their decline. Instead of saying, "I'm exhausted by all the help you need from me," or "It's too hard for me to take you to all your appointments," say, "I'm concerned about you. I'm here for you. How can we manage this together?"

"Hugs always help in that situation," Balka said. "Give them a hug and reaffirm that you understand that it's hard and you don't want to tell them what to do."

Make them a part of the decision. Ask your parents what they would like to see in an assisted living facility. Do they want the option to cook for themselves? Do they have pets? Do they want to go for walks every day? Do they have a hobby they want to continue?

“American Senior Communities strives to serve each of our residents and their families by focusing on the person as a whole,” Balka said. “We provide a variety of lifestyle and care options and we want them to thrive while living in our communities.”

If you are looking for care for your aging parents, American Senior Communities has 90 communities throughout Indiana and Kentucky. They provide excellent services across the spectrum of care, from short-term rehabilitation and memory care to assisted living.

Laurie Stradling is a mother by day and writes by night.