The holiday season is a great opportunity for joyful trips home to visit family. But for some people, these visits can also prompt difficult conversations about their aging parents’ well-being — and, in some cases, whether it’s time to start considering assisted living.
“We find that around this time of year, you come home and have Thanksgiving or Christmas with Mom or Dad, and find something doesn’t look right,” says Mary Ellen Dunham, Health Center Administrator at the newly opened senior living community Prospect Woodward Health Center at Hillside Village Keene. “Maybe the house is not as clean as it used to be. You may look around and notice differences.”
Making the adjustment to assisted living can be a very difficult process, but it’s made much easier with support from family. Here are four ways adult children can help their parents find excellent long-term care.
Get the Ball Rolling, And Be Patient
“The biggest challenge is having the discussion. It’s hard to have those difficult conversations,” Dunham says. “Most people don’t plan for this, so it’s the elephant in the room after awhile.”
So the best thing you can do? Be patient. As you begin these discussions, do your best to be understanding and remember how emotional this process really is. “We’re emotionally attached to the big house or the house with history and memories, so it is really hard to do. It’s hard to have these difficult conversations,” Dunham says. “But if someone can be brave and think about the intention, they can do it with heart and feelings.”
Help Them Shop Around
When your parent is ready, it will be very helpful to visit some different communities with them. “I call it tire-kicking — when you go to buy a new car, you go to the dealership, you walk around kicking tires. Anytime you go someplace, you learn a little more. Maybe you don’t get the car you thought you wanted based on what you learned. It’s the same thing when shopping for assisted living,” Dunham says.
She suggests showing up at odd times so you're not getting a staged tour, and always having a meal to get a feel for the food.
Know What to Look For
Once you start visiting different communities, know ahead of time what questions to ask and what features to look out for.
“First, there’s always the sniff test. It should smell good when you walk in and should look tidy. People should look happy. If you hear people laughing and giggling, walking by with a smile, that’s a great sign,” Dunham says. Sometimes, she says, you’ll get a sense right away about whether it’s the right place.
As for specific questions, she suggests making sure to ask about their ratio of staffers to residents, dining options and schedules, and what activities they offer. (Make sure to check out their activity calendar and dining menu!) If your parent has memory or cognition issues, make sure they have staffers who are specially trained for that.
Keep the Conversation Going
Remember, patience is key — and just getting your parent emotionally ready can take awhile. Be available to talk things out. “Sometimes you just have to plant the seed, then talk a little more and a little more,” Dunham says. “Usually it takes months and months of talking and thinking about things; sometimes we have to get used to the idea of big changes.”
Prospect Woodward Health Center at Hillside Village Keene is a fresh, new kind of senior living community designed with you
in mind. To explore an interactive location tour and learn more about the community,
visit them online at Prospect Woodward Health Center at HillsideVillageKeene.org. For additional information, call (877) 829-