Ask the Senior Living Expert: How to Have the Talk

Why you shouldn’t wait… for the other shoe to drop - being proactive about making the move to senior living and the importance of not waiting.
Introducing “Ask the Senior Living Expert,” a captivating series where we engage in insightful conversations with Northbridge Executives, delving into their wealth of knowledge about the senior living industry. Throughout the series, we explore a myriad of topics, ranging from starting the conversation with your parents to insight on the state of the industry. Our passionate Northbridge experts are happy to impart their wisdom, share heartwarming anecdotes, and paint a vivid picture of life within a Northbridge Senior Living Community. Get ready to be inspired, informed, and touched by the experiences that shape our journey in senior living.

How to Have the Senior Living “Talk” with Your Parents

Tips for a Candid Conversation about Senior Living from Northbridge Vice President of Sales, Mel Horan

Similar to the Chinese proverb, “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second-best time is now.” Having an honest and open discussion about senior living is best had before something prompts the need to move. So, if you haven’t started the discussion with your loved ones, it’s time to plant that tree!

When thinking about how to structure the talk, it’s important to remember that you are dealing with a very emotional subject. Go in with a plan, know where you are going to have the talk, who will be invited and how you will create a positive situation. After over 35 years in the senior living industry, I am happy to share my best practices, here are tips on How to Have The Senior Living “Talk” with your loved ones.

Tip #1: When to start the discussion.

In an ideal world, the conversation about moving into a senior living community or plans for when/if something happens has been an ongoing discussion. Your parents have expressed what their wishes are and together you have worked out a plan that allows for them to be happy, safe and cared for and provides you with peace of mind.

Note that I said, in an ideal world, more often than not, you will find yourself in this next category, something is prompting a move.

Has a spouse passed away, was there a fall at home, are you seeing loneliness, are you noticing signs of decline? Although it would be great if our loved ones came to us and said, ‘I’m ready for some additional help, I don’t think I should live alone anymore.’ The reality is you will have to set aside time to bring up the topic of senior living with your loved one, and you may be met with some resistance to the idea.

No matter when you decide to have the discussion- years in advance or because of an immediate need, it is so important to be open and honest about everyone’s needs and how you can create a positive experience for all involved.

Tip #2: Where to have the discussion.

Choose a place that is comfortable for all involved and will allow space for everyone to express their emotions. This conversation may bring about moments of crying, talking, laughing, and reminiscing – find a place that makes everyone feel as if they can speak freely and without interruptions.

Tip #3: Who should be involved in the discussion.

Without knowing your family dynamics it’s hard to say exactly who should be involved in the discussion, but I’ll share my recommendations. I would encourage the Health Care Proxy and Power of Attorney of the person/people who would be moving. I would also encourage you to invite other family members who are important to the person/people moving. Just be careful not create an overwhelming situation by inviting too many people.

Now that we’ve covered the When, Where and Who of How to Have The Senior Living “Talk” lets talk about two obstacles you might face and how to overcome them.

Obstacle #1: Resistance.

If this talk is prompted by a life event, you may find yourself met with questions like – why do I need to move? What if I’m not ready yet? Do you not think I can take care of myself? What about all the memories we have in our family home? Sometimes the best way to answer these questions is to counter them with questions of your own.

Here is a list of common questions and ways to counter:

Obstacle #2: Misconceptions.

When first exploring the idea of what senior living is, many people come with misconceptions. The most common being, all of them are nursing homes, I’ll lose my independence, all they do is play bingo, this is where you go to die. How do you combat these? Do some research and ask for help. If you have certain senior living communities in mind – come to the discussion with a monthly calendar of all the engaging and exciting opportunities there are for residents, check out one of our community calendars here. Is your loved one afraid of losing their independence? Talk about all the new hobbies and passions they will have a chance to explore after moving in. Northbridge offers a variety of Signature Programs that allow residents to find new passions or explore old ones. Check out our Signature Programs to learn more: SeniorGreen, Artist in Residence, Eat Fresh, Eat Local, and Cooking up Memories. Also, I’m not saying all we do is play Bingo, but don’t knock it until you’ve participated in Bingo Happy Hour at one of our communities – it’s a resident favorite and a competitive event! Challenge your loved one to visit a senior living community to see just how lively it can be.

Power of Language – this blog dives deep into the importance of language. The blog showcases how the words you choose to describe a situation can shape the entire experience. Be mindful that the goal is to help your loved one find their next home so use words like ‘visit’, ‘apartment’ and ‘community’ ‘option’ instead of ‘tour’, ‘room’ and ‘facility’ ‘put’ – I really hate the word facility, I call it the F word!

Looking forward to a new beginning.

Whether you are having the talk well in advance, or have been prompted to start these important discussions, I hope my tips prove useful in your senior living journey. As someone who has worked in the industry for many years I’ve seen the benefits of community living and the amazing impact it has not only on the resident but the whole family.

If you would like further guidance or information on how to have the talk, feel free to reach out to me at MHoran@northbridgecos.com. You can also contact any of our community Sales Directors who are happy to help with providing information and helpful tips for having these discussions with families.

Discover life at a Northbridge community 

If you’re considering senior living for yourself or a family member, we hope you’ll visit one of our communities. You’ll find a maintenance-free, activity-filled and engaging lifestyle to help support your wellness goals. 

We’re here to answer any of your questions and invite you to download our complimentary guide Choosing the Right Senior Living Community: A Step by Step Guide for Making an Informed Decision. Please contact us if we can provide further information or if you would like to schedule a personalized tour.


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