Approach assisted living with empathy, understanding

Approach assisted living with empathy, understanding

By Sarah Richard 

With age comes experience. Monumental occasions such as retiring from work or becoming a grandparent are certainly cause for celebration. 

One of those age-related experiences – deciding whether it’s time to move out of the home and into senior living – is best navigated with the help of loved ones. Nationally, nearly 800,000 seniors reside in assisted living communities, yet the decision to move is never an easy one. It can take multiple conversations over several months, along with a steady approach from loved ones, for seniors to make the move. 

The Preserve, a senior living community in Fort Myers that offers assisted living, skilled nursing, rehabilitation and memory support, partners with adult children of seniors to help prepare their loved one – and themselves – for the transition into assisted living. Figuring out the best way to approach the topic can be a challenge, but the right resources and knowledge leads to a successful transition. 

Below is a guide for adult children. 

Start early

Begin searching for senior living options before your parents’ health worsens or accidents happen. Tour different types of communities, including independent living, assisted living and memory care centers. That way, you know what your parents prefer and you can set the plan in motion once they need extra support to complete tasks like bathing, cleaning and cooking. 

When approaching this initial conversation, be prepared for different reactions. Some seniors may feel OK with the concept of assisted living, even welcoming the extra support. Others might object to even the notion of moving away from home. Regardless, respect their response and expect to have the conversation again soon – patience is key. 

Honesty and compassion 

Be honest about your feelings, especially as the time for seniors to make the transition gets closer. Why do you want to start planning a transition? Have you noticed changes in their behavior or health? Communicate your reasoning, but also be receptive to feedback. Their opinions, feelings and desires are important and should be valued. 

Compassion is key. Put yourself in their shoes. Moving into an assisted living community likely is not at the top of their retirement bucket list. Patience, compassion and love are three key emotions to utilize when approaching this decision. Transitioning to assisted living looks different for all seniors, but frustration, anxiety and sadness are common emotions that accompany this life change. That is why adult children should be patient and have empathy when navigating this transition. 

A helping hand 

Communicate with your loved one about why the move is necessary and be transparent about what it will look like. A study by the National Library of Medicine found that seniors often struggle with the move into a long-term care community because many feel they are losing independence and control over their lives. However, it’s important to help your loved one understand that assisted living is not there to strip them of their control and power over their life. Instead, it grants seniors some level of independence, a full schedule of activities and lifestyle amenities. And if they need an extra set of hands, help is right around the corner. 

Many assisted living communities, including The Preserve, have private apartments with amenities and comforts to make residents feel right at home. Professionally licensed nurses and certified nursing assistants are on-site 24/7. Staff provide personal care and assistance with daily household and hygiene tasks, as well as offer escorts to meals and special events, transportation to appointments and weekly housekeeping services. 

The goal of assisted living is just that – to assist. When discussing the big move, be empathetic, understanding and prepared. That way, the conversation will be much more productive and beneficial to all parties. 

Sarah Richard, Executive Director, The PreserveAbout the Author 

Sarah Richard, MHA, LNHA is the executive director of The Preserve in Fort Myers. 




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