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Having The Talk: Keys To A Successful Conversation About Assisted Living

Cynthia Perthuis Two September 2023 2

Elder Care Thought Leader: Cynthia Perthuis

This article is part of a series called “Having The Talk.”

Preparing Conversation About Assisted Living:

For article one where we discussed making the decision to move into assisted living, click here. In the remainder of this four-part series, we will explore the Where, When and How of Having the Talk and making the transition to assisted living. 

“It is a delicate topic that requires empathy, open communication, and careful consideration.”

As our parents age, so do we. The responsibility of caring for aging parents while juggling our own lives can be overwhelming. That is why finding the right balance is crucial. One challenging yet necessary conversation that often arises is about the possibility of assisted living. It is a delicate topic that requires empathy, open communication, and careful consideration.

Before we dive into the right way to approach the conversation, let’s touch on what to avoid. 

Four Things Not To Say Or Do:

  1. Avoid Negative Language:
    Using language that might make your parents feel like they are losing their independence or becoming a burden. Phrases like, You cannot take care of yourself anymore or I cannot handle this might trigger defensiveness. 
  2. Avoid Arguing:
    If they say they can handle themselves just fine, do not argue. Even if you have evidence to the contrary. This is not the time to bring up all the things they have done wrong recently. 
  3. Having Unrealistic Expectations:
    It is unlikely that your loved one will automatically jump up and down at the thought of moving. Remember, these decisions are usually made over the course of multiple conversations. 
  4. Do Not Make It About the Money:
    Even if your loved one does not have the money to stay in their current home and you know that do not make the conversation about money. It is important that your loved one does not feel like you are after their money in any way. 

“Start by expressing your genuine concern for their well-being and their future.”

Three Things To Say Or Do:

  1. Begin Conversations Sooner Rather Than Later:
    The best-case scenario is to broach the subject often and long before anything needs to be acted on. Early conversations help family members understand the hopes, fears, and expectations that others hold for the future when it comes to assistance and healthcare needs. Having these critical conversations before an immediate need is present allows both parties to be more thoughtful and less reactionary during the discussion.
  2. Express Genuine Concern & Empathy:
    Start by expressing your genuine concern for their well-being and their future. Let them know you are considering what is best for their comfort, safety, and happiness and that you care about what they want for their future. “I know this is difficult to talk about, but I am asking you to explore your options.”
  3. Use Positive Language:
    For instance, “Mom and Dad, we want to make sure you’re living your best life and have all the support you need.” Or, “I want to find a way for you to remain independent and become more active. I always want you to be safe, too.” 

Who Should Have The Conversation?:

It’s important to involve all relevant family members or stakeholders in the conversation. If necessary, designate a leader.  Adult children should try to sort out family dynamics around the situation prior to discussing changes with their parents.  Identifying the primary decision makers can help avoid conflict down the road. The leader needs to be comfortable with strong emotions.

“When you are brainstorming, no idea is a bad idea.”

Gather Information:

Before you have the conversation do some brainstorming and do a little research. When you are brainstorming, no idea is a bad idea. It is just a brainstorm. Consider what you think would be most important to your loved ones and what objections they may have. Do they have a pet they would want to take? Are they still driving? Would they want a community that is active with lots of people, or would they want something smaller? The goal is to consider their perspective and what they would want. 

Another way to gather information is to visit a couple of assisted living communities in your area. Notice what you find personally appealing. Do you think your loved one will too? What vibe did you get? Did you notice that people were happy and engaged? How did the staff behave and communicate with the residents. 


We encourage you to read the next two articles in this series “Having The Talk” before you begin the process or have a conversation with your loved one. If you need help examining your loved one’s situation, there are resources that can help. You’ll find additional support and resources here.

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Cynthia Perthuis

About the Author:

Cynthia Perthuis left her cushy life in Corporate America in 2018 to use her personal experience with her parents and her entrepreneurial background to help the 10,000 people a day turning 65 in the US. The stress of helping aging loved ones and working full-time and caring for her own family while living over 1500 miles apart was overwhelming at times. She often wished there was a non-conflicted industry professional to help when facing these life-changing decisions. She has created her team at Senior Care Authority (www.scanyfl.com) for that purpose. Her team supports over 300 families a year as they navigate these decisions. Please call us at (239) 330-2133 or (212) 913-9963 for a free consultation.