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Senior and family member talking

Chapter 4 - How to talk with your parent about making a change

Talking it out with the one you love

This is an important time: when your loved one has started their research and is asking some questions about what they really want out of life – and what is holding them back. They’ve realized that now might be the right time to look forward to enjoying each and every day, in a place that really gets them.

It makes sense; the senior years are a time for celebration and even health improvement. Seniors between the ages of 65 and 79 are the happiest of all age groups, according to a study by the United Kingdom’s Office for National Statistics that surveyed more than 300,000 people. While this stage of life is often associated with a decline in well-being, including loneliness and dementia, science is showing that specific lifestyle changes – such as exercise, diet and socialization – can turn that story around. And senior living residences are a great place to find opportunities perfect for supporting people just like your loved one.
If your parent wants to discuss their future with you, consider yourself loved and lucky. It’s wonderful that they value your opinion.

This potential move could be something they’ve thought about for a long time, or something their friends are doing that has them intrigued. Maybe they’ve decided that living in a house or condo on their own is not what they want anymore. Whatever their reason for considering senior living, an important step is talking with them about their thoughts, and providing your input.

So, let’s dive into having “the talk.” You’ve got lots of questions and feelings about this next stage, and your parent will too. Feeling like you are part of the process will make sure everyone is on the same page. Because you want the best for your loved one.

Shared understanding: the best starting point

If your parent wants to discuss their future with you, consider yourself loved and lucky. It’s wonderful that they value your opinion. They may be a few steps behind you, though, in terms of their research and their perceptions – or misperceptions – of what senior living in a retirement residence or long term care home really looks like. It’s essential to make sure they, and you, have accurate information on which to base this conversation.

Let’s recap. There are two main types of senior living communities – retirement residences and long term care homes. Let’s cover retirement residences first. According to a recent Angus Reid survey commissioned by Revera in 2021, 43 per cent of those surveyed believe retirement homes are for people who cannot live independently. The reality is quite different.

Retirement residences are designed around flexibility and independence. It’s a place where your loved one will have their own suite, set their own schedule, and come and go as they please. They can access a variety of dining services and menu choices, cook for themselves, or blend the two. Whether they are a certified (or family-declared) gourmet at-home chef or a lover of their local restaurant scene, you and your parent will be impressed with the restaurant-quality dining options. And there is a broad range of amenities to choose from, including (depending on the residence) movie theatres, golf simulators, libraries, art studios, fitness centres, swimming pools and games rooms. Whether they are fully independent or require a range of minimal to daily personal care and support, or even dementia care, there are retirement home options available.

Long term care offers a different living environment than retirement residences do in a number of ways, but the most fundamental difference is the level of care offered. If your loved one requires around-the-clock care and supervision to reduce their health risks and meet their needs, and to help them with the daily tasks of life such as dressing, bathing and toileting, long term care is a good option. Revera’s long term care homes are staffed by caring, compassionate people who are dedicated to providing quality care and supporting the well-being of residents.

Because long term care homes provide medical support, their admission is managed by the public health authorities. The application process for these homes varies by province. Learn more about the agencies in your province.

When you and your parent feel you have a shared understanding of the choices ahead, you’re in a good spot to really start talking about their future. Starting with a level playing field of knowledge helps make the emotional side of the conversation easier.

Slow it down, talk it out

The goal is to support them, so they feel good about their future. Be aware that you all may have a few emotional reactions at first. You may have trouble seeing your parent as vulnerable in any way, or perhaps you need to get used to the idea that they may be leaving the home where you grew up. That’s okay, and these feelings are normal. Always remember that, in the end, this is their decision because it’s their life. Prepare yourself for the fact that “the talk” may be one of many. But it begins with opening the dialogue.

This is the exploratory stage. Through conversations, you can help identify and express your own feelings, while acknowledging the feelings of your loved one. It is also the time when, through discussions, the value in making a life change will become apparent. It’s when your loved one will land on what they are trying to achieve, and what they want out of this next stage.

The exploratory stage takes time. Enjoy the process and don’t rush through it. But keep in mind, as your loved one begins to embrace the change, that you also need time to process, and to express your own emotions.

Digging into the details

They’re feeling good. You’re feeling good. The future looks bright. Now it’s time to nail down some practicalities. This is the evolution of the talk: the creation of a map of needs and nice-to-haves. As they explore the options and learn even more about the different types of care and support, it’s time to do some field research. They can book a tour at a retirement home, or even request to stay overnight or for a few days. They can visit a long term care facility. Talk to the people living there, to the staff. Try a meal and just take in the atmosphere. Can they imagine themselves living there?

Here’s where you come in again. Think about asking if you can accompany them on a tour, or join them for a drink afterwards to discuss what they just experienced. If they’re selling their home or downsizing, ask how you can help. Being a part of the process is not only helpful, it will make both of you feel good.

Above all, remember that every discussion you have is really about their journey. By talking with your loved one, you’ll know they’re making the right decision for them when the time comes.