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Moving Your Senior Parent into Assisted Living: An Adult Child’s Guide

No one likes to think about their parents getting older and no longer being able to care for themselves. So even if you’ve noticed that your parents are requiring more and more help in order to live independently, you may tell yourself that it’s just a phase, or that it’s nothing you can’t handle.

No one likes to think about their parents getting older and no longer being able to care for themselves. So even if you’ve noticed that your parents are requiring more and more help in order to live independently, you may tell yourself that it’s just a phase, or that it’s nothing you can’t handle. It may start off small enough: perhaps Mom needs you to drive her to evening events because her night vision isn’t great. Or your Dad needs your help managing the yardwork. But as the years go on, the occasional helping transforms into daily visits for increasingly basic things. Eventually, you realize that your loved one is only living independently because of the help you or someone else provides. 

If this is the case, assisted living may be the best choice for your senior parent – but this can be a hard situation to navigate, says Devon Sicard, Executive Director of Waterstone at Wellesley. “Older seniors often balk at moving into assisted living because they are worried that they will lose their independence. Actually, the opposite is the case. We’ve seen many of our residents gain back a lot of independence after moving into assisted living. However, the process can be hard, especially at first, because it’s the end of a chapter, and we as humans aren’t always great at that.”

If you’re an adult child with a senior parent, you may end up taking the lead on the move – from the initial impetus to the coordination of the whole thing. Devon says to remember to be kind to yourself and understand that this will be a process that is physical, emotional and mental. 

How Do You Know When It’s Time? 

There is no right or wrong time to move into assisted living, although generally it’s better to move before there is an accident or incident that necessitates a move into a community. However, there are signs that can signal that moving to assisted living would be beneficial for your parent, such as:

  • Having more and more “close calls,” like falling down the stairs, visiting the emergency room, having fender benders or other worrying accidents or issues.
  • Your parent’s appearance has suddenly changed, such as gaining or losing a lot of weight, suddenly looking disheveled or dirty or having difficulty getting around.
  • Your loved one has become withdrawn or antisocial when previously they loved to get outside the house and meet up with friends and partake in activities.
  • The house is starting to look more unkempt than typical – perhaps the inside has become dusty and dirty, or you’re noticing expired food in the refrigerator or cupboards, or the home or yard is looking run-down.
  • Your loved one is having personality changes or showing signs of confusion, which could be due to a variety of things, from dementia to malnutrition to medication issues and others.

Having the Conversation

You may very well have to be the one who makes the move when it comes time for the assisted living conversation. Here are some tips to follow if and when it’s time for you to bring up the subject with your aging parent. 

  • Bring it up casually. Perhaps the best way to approach the subject is to make it seem organic, not like something you’ve already thought about and planned. Get your parent or parents’ feelings and thoughts about the idea – and remember that this will be a string of conversations, not just one. However, making them feel like you’ve already decided on what needs to happen will only make them more liable to dig their heels in.
  • Use “I” phrases. Bringing the concern back to your own personal feelings can be a great way to state your case. You can mention how you’ve heard your parent talk about being lonely, or you know how they hate dealing with home tasks, or other issues that they’ve complained about. This can help lead the conversation toward ways assisted living may be a great solution to their needs.
  • Visit a few assisted living communities with no obligation required. If Mom or Dad seems amenable to the idea, go tour a few communities with them. This can help them get warmed up to the idea of what a community is really like, and why moving there may be a better idea than they originally thought.
  • Be patient. If you don’t need to make an urgent move, it’s best to give your loved one space and not push them into a decision. Bring up the idea but with caution. If you can get them to make the decision on their own, it will be a much less stressful situation for everyone.

After the Move

There are a lot of articles out there about how to successfully make the literal move into a senior living community; however, what is important is to understand that the move is not the last stage of the journey. After your parents have moved into a community, you’ll find that you and they will still be dealing with the upheaval and emotions that come from this big move. 

Your parents may be mourning the loss of their previous lifestyle, and you may be feeling that as well. You may second-guess the decision. Guilt is inevitable, but it’s important to understand that what you’re feeling is completely normal – and temporary. Here are some strategies to keep in mind after your parent’s move to help you come to a state of acceptance and transition.

Take your time. It’s estimated that it takes anywhere from three to six months for an individual to fully adjust to living in a new environment such as assisted living. It could take longer for your parents or it could be a shorter amount of time. Nonetheless, it will take some amount of time. When you have doubts, think about the reasons you made the decision and keep the big picture in mind. 

Visit according to the recommendations of the staff. You may want to visit every day or only a few times during those first few weeks. Only you know your parent, but the staff may be able to help guide you towards an appropriate visiting schedule. Visiting too frequently could cause stress, and not visiting enough could make your parent feel lonely. The best thing to do is play it by ear and see what works best for you and your parent. 

Expect setbacks. This won’t be an easy transition. Just when you think everything is fine, your parent may tell you they’re lonely or that they want to go home. Understand that these heart wrenching moments are normal and will pass as your loved one adjusts to their new lifestyle.

Accept the new normal. This is the new normal for you and your loved one, and as you move forward, it will become easier to manage the emotions. After the initial transition period, you may be surprised at just how enjoyable and fulfilling life becomes for your loved one – and yourself.

Beautiful Riverfront Community

Located on the banks of the Charles River, Waterstone is Wellesley’s only senior living community, offering premier independent and assisted living. But that’s only the first of many differences that sets Waterstone above and beyond other communities.

Celebrating Dynamic Living

Here our residents live independently in their own private, spacious apartments – but without any of the worries or concerns of homeownership or living alone. All meals are expertly prepared. There aren’t any chores to be concerned with. No home maintenance or repairs to worry about. Just opportunities around every corner and time to spend as they choose – in the company of new friends.

Our vibrant community encourages residents to engage in a variety of recreational, cultural and social programs and activities. Enjoy a fitness class. Swim in the sunny indoor pool. Take a stroll on a walking path. Partake in a favorite hobby or pastime. Discover a new interest. With Waterstone at Wellesley, there’s a world of opportunity waiting right outside our residents’ doors.

Confidence of Care

The hallmark of Waterstone assisted living is the peace of mind we provide both our residents and their families. Knowing that care and support is available right on site instills a sense of confidence and calm one can’t find living alone.

For prospective residents or their families interested in residing at Waterstone at Wellesley, please contact us at 781.591.7113.