Family is Forever

The past two weeks we have been collecting pictures of our residents to do a game of “Guess Who” as a part of our National Assisted Living Week celebrations.  It has been such a joy for families and residents to share their pictures from “way back when”.  It has caused me to pause and reflect on life.  When our residents think of themselves, they may picture that younger self that served in the Army or was a homemaker or helped on the farm.  Their children may envision the Mom or Dad that helped shape their childhood and their memories of growing up.  To the staff at the communities that these folks live in now, we may see them differently.  But it is always wise to stop, look back and remember.  As we all age we may see ourselves in many different lights.  We grow and become many things to many people.  So have our residents.  As we celebrate National Assisted Living Week and the beauty that comes from this environment, I want us all to remember that each of us has a history and we impact so many different people.  The theme of National Assisted Living Week is Family is Forever.  I know for me over the last 8 times that I have celebrated this week that it has seen many different faces and many different memories.  I have helped crown many different Kings and Queens of the Gardens.  But I think that what I realize today that each year…my family has grown.  Sometimes it can be hard to let people into your life with the understanding that they may not be able to stay for long.  But as Garth Brooks once sang, “I could have missed the pain, but then I could have missed the dance.”  Thank you assisted living for what you have meant to me and my family.  I know my family has grown forever and my heart is much more full as a result.

 

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The Greatest Gift

Have you ever considered working or volunteering with seniors? One of the greatest joys that an individual can experience is to be able to enjoy the work that they do. Working in assisted living, is not a career it is a calling. One of the first things that I tell potential employees in the interview process is that if you don’t feel that you have the capacity to truly care about the folks that live in our communities…then this is probably not the career for you. In this setting we get to help the residents that live in our communities, but many times we receive more of a blessing from them, than we could possibly ever give. As we approach National Assisted Living Week, I have had many different people from many different walks of life ask what they can do that the residents would enjoy. While there are multiple ways or even multiple things that I have seen bring joy to the faces of residents through the years…there is one that stands out as having the most impact. It is time. Here is a short list of things that you can do that can make someone’s day in an assisted living community.

Share your talents! If you sing, dance, play guitar or whatever gift you have plan a day to come and share with our seniors.

Take time to play! Do you love dominoes? Are you a whiz at Skip Bo? Are you great at calling Bingo? Stop in and spend some time playing games with a group. It will be good for you and them too?

Are you a chatterbox? Even the gift of gab is appreciated. Be prepared to listen too! Our folks love to talk and share.

***Here are some additional ideas that I really like from sharethegood.org

Uncover THEIR skills: If you don’t already know the kind of career your friend had, find out! Ask questions about their biggest lessons or favorite moments. Don’t forget to ask them about their skills and hobbies outside the job, too—sewing, woodworking, writing. Request that they teach you a thing or two.

Log the memories: Bring along a photo album, scrapbook or journal on your visit, and encourage your friend to sit and compile their memories with you. Use narrative, photos, captions, doodles and more. You’ll be turning their oral stories into a documented history book in no time!

Make some artwork: Turn select pages of your memory book into wall art for their room. Simply photocopy the best pages with photos and captions, then hang them up so your friend can continuously recall good times. Plus, colorful photos are sure to brighten any room.

It truly is the time that is given in each of these opportunities that is appreciated the most. Look for ways that you can volunteer and stop by and see us. You can coordinate your visit with your local community administrator. They may have other ideas that can make your visit a success as well. If you are looking for employment opportunities, check out our individual community pages. You can see current openings and get other information by clicking on the career section of the websites.

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All in the Family

We are right around the corner from National Assisted Living Week.  Every year this tradition is a very special time for our residents, staff, families and our entire community.  As we busy ourselves with plans and preparation to make this event a success, I wanted to stop and reflect on why this year’s theme means so much to me personally.

 

I started working in assisted living in 2010.  I am truly amazed how quickly time has passed.  Through these last years, I have met some truly amazing people.  I have laughed and I have cried.  I have learned about others and I have learned about myself.  Rick Warren once said, “while it is wise to learn from experience, it is wiser to learn from the experience of others.”  The people that live and work and volunteer in our communities are true blessings.  I have learned many life lessons from so many of these wonderful people.  The wisdom that the residents share is invaluable.  The families of our residents are treasures as well.

 

National Assisted Living Week will be the week of September 10th through the 16th and the theme this year is “Family is Forever”. This year’s theme is inspired by a quote from the poet Maya Angelou: “Family isn’t always blood, it’s the people in your life who want you in theirs: the ones who accept you for who you are, the ones who would do anything to see you smile and who love you no matter what.”

 

I feel this theme truly represents what I see on a daily basis.  It’s in the encouragement of a staff member, the smile of a volunteer or the laughter of a resident.  The people that you will find here truly are family.  Find out more about our communities at the links listed below.  Schedule a tour at one of our properties today.  Find out why we believe Family is Forever!

 

Harmonica Happiness

According to the article entitled, “When Music Becomes Your Medicine” by Bart Astor, “Music therapy has been around for a long time — Hippocrates was known to have played music for his patients as early as 400 B.C. — but only recently became a recognized medical discipline with board certification.

It is a helpful tool for therapists in treating mental health disease, developmental and learning disabilities, dementia, and acute and chronic pain.”

Our blog this week honors Gardens of Daphne volunteer Patrick Kenny.   Mr. Kenny delights the residents with his harmonica tunes and brightens their days.  As there is a delightful tune played on the harmonica called the “Missippi Mud”…we are including Gardens of Daphne resident Shirley Hartley’s recipe for Missippi Mud.   Mr. Kenny…look for the Gardens of Daphne to be fixing up a sweet treat just for you!  Thanks for your time and dedication to bring joy to all the residents and staff at the Gardens of Daphne.

harmonica manmusic stevie

 

Mississippi Mud Recipe by Shirley Hartley

2 sticks of margarine

2 cups sugar

4 eggs

1 1/2 cups flour

1/3 cup cocoa

1 cup chopped pecans

1 teaspoon vanilla

dash of salt

3 cups miniature marshallows

Icing:

1 stick margarine

1 box powcered sugar

1/3 cup cocoa

1/2 cup evaporated milk

1 cup chopped nuts

 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In mixing bowl, beat butter and sugar until creamy.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating thoroughly after each addition.  Sift together the flour and 1/3 cup cocoa.  Fold this into the creamed mixture.  Add pecans and vanilla.  beat well.  Pour into greased and floured 9×13-inch pan.  Bake 30 to 35 minutes.  Sprinkle top with marshmallows.  Bake until marshmallows are melted and starting to turn brown (about 10 minutes).  Remove from oven and cool in pan about 30 minutes.  Icing:  Melt butter in saucepan.  Sift together powdered sugar and cocoa.  Stir sugar mixture into butter along with nuts and milk.  Spread over cake.

Yield:  12 or more servings

Keep It Clean

There are many reasons that family members become concerned that an elderly loved one is not doing well.  One issue that is a cause for concern is bathing or rather the lack thereof.  A parent not bathing is a topic that many families are reluctant to discuss as they may be uncomfortable bringing it up. But be assured that this is an issue that many people face.  It is common…but there may be multiple root causes.  It is important to understand why they are reluctant.  Only when you understand that the underlying reasons can you better approach and address successfully.  Let’s look at some of the more common reasons.

 

  1. Fear of Falling

The bathroom can be a very dangerous place. If you have every slipped in the shower, you can relate. Now you pair the environment with physical issues like foot problems, balance issues, arthritis and more…and you have a recipe for disaster and fear.

 

  1. Depression

Often elderly have issues with depression that can zap their get up and go. When you lack motivation, bathing and concerns for your grooming often go by the wayside.

 

  1. Cognitive Issues

Another reason that is very common are memory issues. If your parent has dementia or other cognitive decline, keeping up with a bathing schedule can be extremely difficult.  Realizing that you haven’t taken a bath is not something they may be able to keep up with easily.

 

While it may be a difficult subject to approach, you must develop a plan. For some simply adding grab bars or safety equipment may help. Some may be able to follow a chart.  But if it is a depression or memory issue, it may be time to consider getting help.  As always discuss your concerns with a doctor.  A physician may want to consider medications to help with depression.  It may be time to enlist the help of a caregiver or look into an assisted living community where your loved one can have daily assistance with their activities of daily life like bathing and grooming.  But don’t avoid the topic because it is messy and uncomfortable.  The health benefits of cleanliness are far too important to ignore.

Mama Said, Mama Said

Mother’s Day is a time of year when we reflect on the ladies that helped mold and shape us into who we are today.  To get some real pearls of wisdom we reached out to some of our resident mothers to ask them, “What was the most important thing that your Mother taught you?”  The answers are advice that is timeless for all of us today.

Gardens of Wetumpka Resident Juanita Royall said:

“My mother taught me to always be a lady and be truthful because God is watching.”

Gardens of Pelham Resident Carolyn Hayes said:

“My Mother always said never mistreat anyone or it will come back and bite you and to always be kind.”

Gardens of Eufaula Resident Dimple Zorn:

“My Mama taught me how to cook and she taught me how to be a good Mother to my children.”

Gardens of Madison Resident Carole Kleis said:

“My Mother taught me to make the best out of what you have and to love and take care of your family.”

Limestone Lodge Resident Elease Barksdale said:

“My Mom taught me not to be selfish.”

Gardens of Eufaula Resident Mildred Vickers said:

“My Mother always told me to tell the truth and be a good friend.”

Limestone Manor Resident Avis Fox said:

“My mother instilled in me a good, hard work ethic.  I always had a lot of responsibilities even at a young age.  My Mom was a single mother and watching her made me realize what hard work was all about.”

Gardens of Clanton Resident Mary Nell Jones said:

“My Mom taught me to work hard and take care of my family.”

Gardens of Eufaula Resident Betty Sutton said:

“Being an only child gave me a unique perspective.  My Mother was 30 years old when I was born.  When I had my 3 boys, we learned how to care for three small children at the same time together.  She was also a business woman that taught me the importance of never burning bridges in business or in friendships.”

Gardens of Daphne Resident Anna Speer said:

“My Mom taught me to be nice and always act like a sweet southern belle and to give respect to everyone.”

 Limestone Manor Resident Jackie Bridges said:

“My Mom taught me to be the best you can be in everything.”

Gardens of Eufaula Resident Merilyn Crapps said:

“I was taught by my Mother to show love and always respect your elders.”

Gardens of Clanton Resident Lucille Mims said:

“My Mother taught me to raise my children right and have respect for others.”

Gardens of Madison Resident Nancy Melton said:

“My mother instilled family values in me and to love one another.”

Gardens of Eufaula Resident Margaret Slade said:

“I’m thankful for my Mother teaching me to read at age 5 because I always enjoyed reading and getting into a book.”

Gardens of Wetumpka Resident Bennie McDonald said:

“My Mother taught me to be honest and respectful at all times.”

Gardens of Pelham Resident Lula Mae Ott said:

“My Mother said to hold your character up because no one else will do it.”

Gardens of Eufaula Resident Sara Hamrick:

“My Mom told me back when I was a young girl of dating age to remember to always cross your legs and act like a lady.  I think acting like a lady is still important today.”

Gardens of Daphne Resident Shirley Hartley said:

“Mama believed we should follow the Golden Rule and also love everybody the way you want to be loved.”

Limestone Lodge Resident Kay Armstrong said:

“My mother taught me to be fair.”

Gardens of Wetumpka Resident Lily Keener said:

“My Mama taught me to always remember, this too shall pass.”

Gardens of Eufaula Resident Opal Newsome said:

“My Mama always taught us to take care of your responsibilities.  Don’t expect others to do it for you.”

vintage-mother-and-daughter kitchen

Timeless Charm & Grace

According to a recent article by Good Housekeeping, living longer life may have something to do with Assisted Living Communities!  The article states, “Beyond inviting our older relatives and friends into our homes, it’s important to encourage elderly relationships — which is why, despite popular belief, older folks tend to thrive in independent or assisted living environments. These living arrangements provide more ways to mingle, to connect, to thrive.”

This holds true for Mrs. Carrie Miller.  Mrs. Miller celebrated her 103rd birthday this past December.  As we sat down to talk with her we learned a little bit about her Southern charm and grace.  Mrs. Miller is from Georgia and moved to the Gardens of Clanton in 2010.  She grew up with five siblings, one of which was her twin brother named Jay.  She has made a wonderful life and has been blessed with 3 children, 6 grandchildren and 8 great grandchildren.

A former homemaker, she enjoys going to parties and her favorite holiday is Christmas.  She is quite the fashionista and when she was ready to greet us, she showed us several of her outfit choices before selecting the perfect one that was one of “her” colors.  She looked quite lovely of course.  She has always been a social butterfly and when asked what makes her happy she said it was her children, family, friends AND…listening to the Chosen Two singers that share music at the Gardens of Clanton.  She loves life and hearing a message in song.  She shared that her favorite part about living at the Gardens is having wonderful help always there for her and having friends to talk to.  So blessed to have her charm and grace.  Grateful that her life has been enriched by her time at the Gardens of Clanton.

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Painting a Beautiful Life

As children, many of us feel that we could live forever.  In this day and age, thanks to modern medicine and other interventions, many are living to be 100 years old and older!  The thought of living to be Centenarian intrigues me.  But after a recent interview with Gardens of Wetumpka resident Mrs. Bennie McDonald, I was more than intrigued…I was inspired.

When Mrs. Bennie moved to the Gardens of Wetumpka, she very easily could have propped up her feet in an easy chair and rested on all of her many accomplishments.  She had been a loving wife and mother and spent a very fulfilling career in education.  She has painted a Landscape Paintingbeautiful life all without the stroke of a brush….that is until she attended an art class at the Gardens of Wetumpka.  You see, Mrs. Bennie hasn’t just been biding her time in the assisted living.  She has been living life to the fullest.  Mrs. Bennie began painting as a result of this activity at the assisted living.  Today her artwork graces the halls of the building and is actually in high demand.  She has even sold many of her paintings.  With a careful hand and an artist’s eye she paints many beautiful pieces on her canvases.  When asked what she thinks is the key to living a long life she explained that the Lord has carried her through many trials in life and that she wouldn’t be anywhere without Him.

She also explained that besides her artwork, the thing that makes her smile the most is her “wonderful children and the memories of her husband.”  She expressed her delight that many former students have told her that she was a good influence on them.  She continues to be an encourager as she has always been an avid gardener and now she has passed along her green thumb to one of her neighbors at the Gardens of Wetumpka.  So amazing to think you may find a new talent in your life in your golden years.  Mrs. Bennie is an inspiration for all of us to live each day fully, never stop learning and paint a beautiful life.   Mrs. Bennie celebrated her 100th birthday on October 23rd.

MrsBennie3

Thankful

November is typically the month where we stop and give thanks.  This year in our community we have a Thankful Tree.  Thanks to the talent and creativity of my staff members, this beautiful notion has come to life.  But the real beauty that you will find are the comments that are attached to the branches of this tree.  Residents and staff have given thanks for everything from health and happiness to family and friendship.  So, as our hearts and minds turn to the holiday season, here are some suggestions to help you prepare for those times we treasure the most.  Thinking ahead will make you thankful you did when it comes to sharing the holidays with your loved one that lives in an assisted living.

Stick to the Schedule

I have had families tell me time and time again that they were amazed that their parent was ready to go back home (to their ALF community) almost immediately after Thanksgiving or Christmas lunch or supper was over.  While they were surprised, in many ways it was comforting for them.  They realize that their loved one had made their community their home.  I am reminded of my own Granddaddy.  He was a man of routine.  He didn’t vary much from his schedule.  That is what I remind the families of our residents.  They have the tendency in some cases to become creatures of habit.  Trust me…they like a decent dose of predictability.  Don’t believe me?  Try canceling bingo!  But just try and be as flexible as possible with their expectations.  Plan ahead when it comes to medications and other necessities.  If you are prepared in advance it will be more Norman Rockwell and less National Lampoons Christmas Vacation.

Don’t forget to Include Me!

Does Mom have a recipe for everyone’s favorite Caramel Cake?  Does Grandpa have a story that he loves to tell?  If you have ever had to suffer the loss of a loved one, you know that things like this will one day become a treasured memory.  If Mom is able, include her in some of the preparation process for the meal.  Or even just ask her advice.  Everyone likes to feel included.  Maybe you have heard Grandpa Pete’s story about his days in the war a hundred times.  Maybe this year is the time to write it down.  In our culture, we get so caught up in being in a hurry.  Heaven knows we all can be glued to electronics.  Take time to turn off and tune in to loved ones.  Your conversations will be priceless to you one day.

Conversation Starters

While the holidays can be a time for sadness for some, it is best to keep conversation light.  But many forget that while seniors may be older, they still like to engage.  We all love looking at pictures on our social media accounts, right?  Share with your elderly loved one the photos from the high school playoffs or the trip to the pumpkin patch.  The pictures can be made large enough for their viewing on most devices.  You may even want to let everyone in your family go around the room and tell what they are thankful for.  You may find as we did with our Thankful Tree that what you hear will bless you more than you ever imagined.

Great Oaks Management communities will observe holiday meals during the Thanksgiving and Christmas season.  If you would like to join your loved one for a meal, call and make your reservation today. 

Ways to Have “The Talk” With Your Loved One

Are you currently trying to figure out the best way to have a difficult conversation with your parent or loved one?  Is it about giving up driving, selling the house, moving to an assisted living, or maybe hiring a nurse/help?  Whatever the conversation is, our friends over at Caring.com have come up with some great “best practices” for opening up a dialogue concerning difficult topics with an aging parent or loved one.

“Start by realizing that there are fundamentally two different types of parents,” says Caring.com senior medical editor Ken Robbins, a geriatric psychiatrist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “Those with whom you have a relationship in which you can be straightforward and they welcome your ideas and feedback, and those who tend to be more self-conscious or private and don’t welcome this kind of discussion — and may even find it somewhat insulting.”

Even if, in the past, your parent was sharing and receptive, this can change due to aging-related issues such as depression, creeping dementia, lowered self-esteem, or other frustrations. On the other hand, a close-lipped parent may be relieved to talk because he or she is worried, too.

What to say about sensitive subjects can also be tricky because you have different goals. Geriatric communication expert David Solie, author of How to Say It to Seniors, notes that adult children want to solve the problem and move on. Their parents, however, want foremost to maintain a sense of control and dignity in a season marked by many losses. Your goal in how to have “the talk”: Balance both sides’ needs by moving forward slowly and with care.

Do some homework

Before you say a word, take time to collect some information and research possible solutions, Robbins says. Ultimately, the goal is to problem-solve together through a dialogue with your parent (not to dictate the solution or to convince through arguments). But if you gather facts first, you’ll be able to help in a way that’s better informed and less stressful for everyone.

  • Moving/Assisted Living
    Check out a few places on your own so you have concrete examples to talk about. “In general, most people have more difficulty with abstract conversations about assisted living,” Robbins notes. If you live in a different city, you can read reviews about options and make appointments to check them out when you’re there, or consult a local geriatric care managerto get recommendations. Don’t think of it as being “sneaky” — it can be less anxiety-provoking for your parent if you present winnowed options. You can always go through the whole list of choices together if he or she prefers.
  • In-home care
    Closely observe what activities your parent is having trouble with. Look around the house for concrete signs he or she may not be faring well independently. Start to research sources of in-home care help and costs.
  • Driving
    Watch your parent drive, looking for signs of an unsafe driver. Research the alternatetransportation services in your parent’s area or explore other ways he or she might get aroundif there’s no personal car.
  • Health issues
    Observe what specific kinds of limitations you’re seeing: Trouble climbing stairs? Cooking? Managing finances? Grooming? Thinking in terms of specifics helps you figure out the best solutions, as well as be able to describe the problem accurately to your doctor (and your parent).

 

Test the waters

Also before you start the conversation, take time to get a sense of whether your parent is open to it. You can do this by first introducing an unthreatening related topic — by phone before a visit or, if you see your parent often, in a separate visit. This isn’t yet the time for hot-button topics, criticism, or anything contentious.

Stick to the positive and general. Does he or she respond openly? Defensively? Evasively? This will give you important insight into how to proceed.

Say something like:

  • “How’s the house? It must be hard to keep this place in good shape.”
  • “How’s your health? What’s the doctor saying these days?”
  • “How’s the car? Still driving to the city every weekend?”

If your parent sounds interested, say something like:

  • “Is there some way I can be helpful?”
  • “Yes, I can see why that would bother you. Let’s talk about it more when I see you.”

Even if, in a test-the-waters chat, your parent sounds receptive to discussing a tough issue, it’s usually best not to plunge in yet, Robbins says. In this first talk, you just want to float the issue, not problem-solve. You want to show in a respectful way that you can be a helpful, nonjudgmental resource.

If he or she asks you, “What should I do?” say something like:

  • “I’ll be there soon; let’s work on it together then.”
  • “What are you thinking? Give me some time to think about that, too.”

What not to say:

  • “Yup, that’s a problem. I’m going to do X and Y to take care of that for you.”
  • “Sounds like it’s finally time to move to an assisted living place.”
  • “You sound mixed up; I’m going to call your doctor.”

 

Choose the best messenger

What if your parent resists any talk about his or her future? Pause to consider whether this conversation is best had by another party. Robbins says that a neutral third party — a doctor, a family friend, a cleric — is often better suited to bring up tricky topics like driving or whether to live independently.

These people can lay the same groundwork, explaining what seems to be wrong and suggesting options for fixing it, without risking a strained relationship in the way an adult child does when a parent is especially resistant or feels manipulated.

Set the right tone

So you’ve done some homework and gotten a sense of how ready (or indifferent) your parent is. How do you take the plunge? Plan to start the conversation on a different day from your test-the-waters chat, in person if possible. This feels less threatening and overbearing, and more natural.

“Don’t get critical the minute you walk in the door. Focus on connecting and having fun,” Robbins says, “while also using this time to observe.” You may be on a mission to resolve the problem, but you’ll have a more ready audience if you first take the time to enjoy one another’s company before diving in.

Try opening with compliments — say something like:

  • “I like how you’ve . . . “
  • “Wow, looks like . . . “

 

Look for an opening

The best time to segue into a serious conversation is when your parent brings it up first and asks for your help. Failing that, look for an opportunity when everyone is relaxed. Then take the plunge. Describe what you’re seeing.

If a direct approach feels welcome, say something like:

  • “I see the steps are a problem for you and you almost fell this morning. Is that happening a lot?”
  • “It looks like you’re having trouble getting off the couch, and you seem a little lonely and mixed up when you’re tired. You know they say that people do a lot better where there’s a lot of activity going on, and things to enjoy.”
  • “Mom said you got another ticket, and I noticed the rear fender of the car is bent again. What do you think is going on?”

If an indirect approach feels better, say something like:

  • “I read about this man in the paper who lost control of his car and killed some kids on the sidewalk. He was about your age. It made me think we should consider what’s in your best interests with the car now.”
  • “Lauren’s parents just sold their house on Elm Street and moved to a retirement community — you should have heard her mom rave about not having to do any more yard work.”
  • “Remember Jack, my friend who became a doctor? He told me that his whole family has living wills and I’m thinking we should all do that, too.”

What not to say:

  • “The house was a mess last time I was there. You need a housekeeper.”
  • “Mom, Dad looks awful! We need to go to the doctor when I get there, because you obviously are having trouble looking after him.”
  • “When are you going to give up driving? I heard you had another accident.”

 

Listen and Follow Your Parent’s Cues

Use reflexive listening, an effective communication technique for difficult conversations. Rephrase what your parent says, as a way of playing back that you understand — making your parent feel supported — and then move the conversation forward.

Say something like:

  • “I hear you saying . . . but it’s also worth thinking about this. . . .”
  • “Yes, I agree that . . . on the other hand. . . .”
  • “I know you’re really worried about. . . . Me, too — but if X doesn’t happen. . . .”
  • “That sounds upsetting for you. . . . Have you thought about. . . ?”

Realize that some older adults can’t articulate the real issue. They may shy from change, perhaps because they fear what it would be like or they lack the energy to deal with it. Often they avoid making a change not because of their own preferences but because they worry about upsetting someone else.

If she’s anxious, say something like:

  • “You’re right that moving is a huge hassle. But we’ll help you sort and pack and you won’t have to do much. We’ll set up your new bedroom to look just like this one.”
  • “I know we’ve always spent the holidays in this house, but we’d love to have Thanksgiving at our house this year. You can still make your special pies there without having to worry about all the getting ready or cleaning up.”
  • “You may call them ugly old grab bars, and that’s what they used to be. But I was reading howuniversal design is really trendy, attractive home design right now.”

Find ways to be reassuring, talk up the positives, or stress how the solution is good for everyone.

If she’s resistant, say something like:

  • “Bob says he’ll pick you up for Breakfast Club every morning so you won’t have to miss it, and I’ll get your groceries.”
  • “Let’s make a list of pros and cons.”

To help with resistance, focus on the solution. Or, look for the underlying cause. Some people push back for a specific unmentioned reason, which may be emotional, physical, or cognitive. Maybe Dad doesn’t want to talk about moving because he thinks he can’t afford it. Maybe Mom lacks the cognitive ability to realize she can’t live alone. If the person is very resistant, “the most successful person to have the conversation is not usually the adult child,” Robbins says. A family friend or doctor may have better luck.

If she’s interested or agreeable, say something like:

  • “What would it mean to you if you stopped driving/had someone to cook meals/moved?”
  • “What would be the most difficult thing about. . . ?”
  • “Let’s make a list of what you can do about this.”
  • “Let’s think through the pros and cons of each situation.”
  • “Why don’t you try doing X for a couple of months and see how it works for you?”

The goal is to encourage more input and to keep the discussion positive and collaborative.

If you want a parent to consider an assisted living option, Robbins says that with some people, one option is to casually drive by the best place you’ve identified through prior research, and suggest dropping in together to have a look. Better yet if you have a logical pretext — visiting a friend’s parent, stopping to see a “friend” who works there, participating in an activity or meal you’ve prearranged. Make sure it’s a place you’ve prescreened so that you’re pretty sure your parent will find things to like.

Even if there’s not much choice, lay out the options and their pros and cons, strategize solutions to the biggest problems, and let your parent draw his or her own conclusion (assuming dementia is not an issue).

Follow Up

Let it percolate awhile

Whatever you do, don’t launch an aggressive “sell” on your favorite option the minute you get back home or the next time you talk. Don’t push for making a decision right away. Try not even to hint or nag at first.

What not to say:

  • “I hope you’ve been thinking about our idea of bringing in some help.”
  • “So, selling your car — have you done anything about it yet?”
  • “Wasn’t that place we saw nice? We need to get you out of here!”

 

Be ready to continue the conversation at any time

If your parent mentions the conversation at all, use this as a wedge to revisit the matter in a supportive way.

If he or she offers something positive, say something like:

  • “Yes, I could see you being happy there. What do you think it would be like to live there? Let’s think about what we’d have to do to make that happen — I can help.”

If he or she expresses a concern:

Take it as a positive sign that he or she is at least aware of the issue and thinking about it. Go over the facts as well as the solutions again in a nonthreatening way.

If he or she says something negative:

Don’t fall into an argument. Be patient and try to get at the underlying concern. Is it fear of running out of money? Is it a feeling that admitting help is necessary is also admitting failure of some kind? Look for ways to address and support the concern. Maybe you give a weekly cleaning service as a Mother’s Day gift “because I don’t know what else to get you and you deserve to be treated like a queen,” for example.

Test the waters (again)

After some time passes, if your loved one doesn’t give you an opening, you can try bringing up the issue again in a test-the-waters way.

Say something like:

  • “How’s the car?”
  • “What did the doctor say?”

 

Know when to bring in help

Total resistance means it’s time for a third party (not the adult child) to try, Robbins says. “This conversation may need to be more direct,” he says. “It may have to include a discussion of the risks and the possibility that if they don’t voluntarily yield, say, their driver’s license or residence — there is a risk that others will take over because of the dangers involved, and then they may have less say in what comes next. They can be told it’s better to work on it voluntarily with someone who loves them and only wants to help them get what they need.”

If the issue is critical and the person still won’t make a safe choice, it may be time to get a family doctor and lawyer involved to evaluate competency and, if appropriate, activate a power of attorney or appoint a guardian who can make safe choices on the person’s behalf. See How to Make Difficult Decisions When Your Loved One’s Mental Capacity Is Failing.

Make it clear that you’re comfortable with any decision

If your parent is of sound mind but just making decisions that you disagree with (not endangering ones), all you can do is continue the conversation in a positive way. Any choices are ultimately his or hers. You may not like the choice, or you may end up needing to revisit the matter later, but you can’t make the decisions for him or her in that case.

What you can do, Robbins says, is to remain upbeat and supportive, even if you’re frustrated or worried. This keeps you a welcome sounding board as your parent moves, however slowly, toward resolution.

Remember that transitions involve an ongoing dialogue. Difficult as that first conversation about a sensitive topic is, it’s only the first of many you’re likely to have as you strategize your way toward a solution that everyone can feel better about.

For more useful information like this and more, visit us at GreatOaksManagement.com and check out our “Education” tab!