Moving Your Parents Into Assisted Living? It’s Not Easy
There are a lot of aspects of adulthood that no one ever prepares us for. But for me personally, few of them were as difficult to navigate as moving my parents into assisted living.
As I’ve reflected on this challenging transition, I thought it might be beneficial to share my experience here in blog post. I hope the advice I have to offer (all based on things I wish someone had told me before I went through this process) is useful to you, or that, at the very least, it reassures you that you’re not alone.
Moving My Own Parents
A little over 7 years ago now, my siblings and I took our parents to tour an assisted living community for the first time, and I don’t think I’ll ever forget that day. We were all trying so hard to “put on a happy face” about this next step, but you could have cut the tension with a knife.
My mom was trying to keep up her usual sunny outlook and disposition, whereas my dad parked himself in a chair in the lobby and refused to move for some time. (My dad passed away 4 years ago, so we laugh about this now, but at the time it was anything but funny.)
Once we got dad out of the chair and actually got to the tour, my parents came up with a laundry list of complaints. The food wasn’t good, the other residents were so old, and my favorite one from Dad: “I didn’t work hard my whole life to be moved into a crappy one-bedroom apartment!” (The apartment was nice by anyone’s standards, so I have to assume it was the single bedroom he thought was “crappy”.)
On top of their steady stream of complaints, Mom and Dad kept telling us they were “fine where they were”, but we weren’t there touring the facility on a whim.
Realizing It Was Time
I won’t list every accident and frightening circumstance my mom and dad experienced in the months prior to our tour of the assisted living facility, because it would be terribly long and depressing. Suffice it to say that my siblings and I were constantly worried about one or both of them.
We knew my dad had Alzheimer’s, and we were increasingly concerned about the toll that caring for him was taking on Mom. Once we found out she had been downplaying and hiding things from us out of a desire to protect Dad and our image of him, it was clear that they were not in any way “fine where they were”.
The process of transitioning our parents from the home they loved to an assisted living facility was one of the hardest things I’ve had to do. Here are a few of the lessons I learned along the way that might help you when it’s your turn.
3 Tips For Moving Your Parents Into Assisted Living
1. Start Talking About It Early
Start talking with your parents about their future as early as possible. The process won’t happen in a week or a day, so keep that in mind and ease your parents (and yourself) into this change by starting a dialogue about it early.
2. Be Respectful Of Your Parents’ Things
You might be ready to throw most of what’s in your parents’ house into the junk heap, but they probably won’t be. Be respectful of your parent’s things, even if you don’t understand why they feel the way they do about them. Deciding what they can or should keep and what should go is hard, even gut-wrenching, so be patient during that part of the process.
3. Lean On Your Support Group
I’m glad that I had my 5 siblings around me during this process, because I couldn’t imagine trying to get through that period alone. But I wish we would have realized we were on the same team earlier, rather than waste time pointing fingers about who was at fault for what.
If you have siblings, recognize that watching your parents nearing the end of their lives is hard enough, and resist the urge to take it out on each other. If you don’t have siblings, reach out to friends and other family members to make sure you have the support you need.
When it finally becomes necessary to move your parents into assisted living, there’s just no avoiding it. The only way out is through, and as long as you know that you’re doing the right thing for your parents (even if they don’t see it that way at first), you’ll be okay.
Watching my parents grow old and, in my dad’s case, pass away has been a very eye-opening experience for me. I wish I had been better prepared for it, but I imagine it’s one of those human experiences that no one feels prepared for. Honestly, I find that strangely comforting.
If you’ve moved your parent(s) into assisted living, what advice would you give to someone starting that process?