From the moment we are born, we aspire towards greater and greater independence. A toddler whimpers to hold their own spoon, and teenagers balk at a parent even showing face at prom. None of this dissipates as we evolve into our golden years. In fact, it may even escalate. So the thought of giving that up, moving out of the comfort and familiarity of one’s own home and into assisted living, is a thought at which most people are going to dig their heels in against, at least to some degree.
Like most things, the best strategy is planning for this inevitable transition before any signs of necessity. This way, everyone can feel that they have a voice and are an active participant in making the decisions that will affect them. But these are also decisions that will affect you and your entire family, so it is not something to be taken lightly. Also, there are several obstacles that might present themselves when the topic of transitioning into assisted living comes up, ranging from fear and opposition to financials.
Initially, it is best to start with a “What if?” type of conversation. This can help ease everyone into different case scenarios, some of which might even be implausible, but those can often bring a little levity to the discussion. Knowing what your parent, parents, or care recipient wants is truly fundamental. Because while the burden might be yours in terms of facilitating arrangements, this is their life. Proceeding with a gentle touch is crucial. The goal is the most seamless transition into the next phase of life, wherever that is determined to be.
There might be some uncertainty as to whether or how much assistance an elder needs. Oftentimes the facility itself can assess the individual’s needs to determine if the need is for a fairly independent arrangement with the availability of assistance or a full-on nursing home. Many facilities are able to adapt to the needs of the individual as they evolve, so that is a very important component to determine when choosing where your loved one will reside. These can range from medical/physical to psychological and will determine the level of care that the individual will require, both currently and progressively.
On a more personal note, any elder might understandably oppose the very thought of relinquishing their life-long independence to the hands of apparent strangers. Emphasis should be placed on the positive aspects: the ease of having personal attendants, basically, people to cook and clean for you, as well as the security of immediate attention in case of an emergency. These can be reframed as comforting rather than resignation. Many facilities offer entertainment, too, from music and game nights to book clubs and exercise classes and even “field trips.” Reiterating that people of all ages could appreciate those types of amenities can help circumvent feelings of dependency. And choosing a facility that is aesthetically appealing is also helpful. Many assisted living communities are gorgeously landscaped, with rooms and out-structures designed by notable architects, gardened by professionals, and catered by talented teams of restaurant-caliber chefs. So, determine your loved one’s priorities when choosing the destination, just as you would a new home or apartment, or even a vacation.
If the individual is really, really obstinate, this might be the time to apply some tough love. At a certain point in life, we all are blind to what might be ultimately in our best interest, and a guiding hand to hold that sees the bigger picture is instrumental in facilitating a compassionate transition into assisted living. Even though this can be a trying moment, approach the situation with as much love and empathy as you can muster up. It will be appreciated in the long run, even if not so much by the individual to which it was afforded, but ultimately by your own memory of them.