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Think Before You Speak

October 13, 2023

Before talking with your family about moving into a senior living community, make a plan to help the conversation go smoothly.

If you’re thinking about moving to a senior living community, you’re probably waiting for “the right time” to broach the subject with your adult children and other family members. Unfortunately, rarely is there ever an ideal time to have a difficult chat. Instead of waiting for a conversational door to magically appear, a better approach is to build the door yourself. And that takes planning. Here are four things you should do to prepare:

Understand Your Options:

When you tell your family that you want to move into a senior living community, what they might hear from you is, “I’m ready to go to a nursing home.” But senior living communities aren’t nursing homes. Senior housing today encompasses a diverse menu of safe, comfortable and dignified choices that allow seniors to live as independently as they want to, with as much—or as little—assistance as they need.

Before you discuss senior living with your family, it’s a good idea to make sure you understand what those choices are so that you can explain to your loved ones what your plan entails and how it will help you achieve the medical, emotional, social and/or financial goals that you have set for yourself. In particular, you’ll want to understand the difference between the different types of communities – from independent living, assisted living, memory care, skilled nursing, life plan communities.

Clarify Your Goals and Wishes:

Even if you do a good job explaining what modern senior living communities look like, your family members might have a hard time seeing past negative stereotypes and emotional assumptions. For that reason, it’s important that you be able to express not only where you want to spend your golden years, but also why you want to spend them there. Here are a few of the most common reasons that seniors give for moving into a senior living community. Before you speak to your family, think about which ones resonate most with you.

  1. Safety
  2. Health & Wellness
  3. Financial Security
  4. Socialization
  5. Support
  6. Mental Acuity

Prepare an Outline:

When it comes to something as sensitive as aging, it may feel most natural to speak from the heart. And you should, because sincerity is important. It’s also important, however, to be prepared, organized and cogent. If you leave your remarks to chance, you might forget to say something important, and could end up meandering in ways that make your decision appear hasty and ill-conceived.

To come off as both authentic and informed, prepare a loose agenda or outline prior to speaking with your family members—something that you can consult as you talk, but which you won’t read verbatim. Because talks about senior housing can be extremely emotional and stressful, writing down the things you want to say and the points you want to make can ensure that conversations are focused, rational and productive, but also genuine and heartfelt.

Anticipate Questions:

Remember that conversation is by nature a two-way street. While it’s important to prepare what you want to say, it’s just as critical that you be ready to hear your family members’ response. They’ll have feelings to share, but also questions to ask. Lots and lots of questions. If you already have a senior living community in mind, for example, they might want to know the size and setup of the residences, what the monthly rent will be, whether meals are provided, what other services are and aren’t included, and whether Medicare or Medicaid will help with the costs.

As much as you can, try to anticipate what questions they will have, and to prepare answers to demonstrate that you’ve done your homework.

Read more about how to prepare to to talk with your family about senior living in our guide: