When It’s Time to Have the ALF (Assisted Living) Conversation
Did you spot some concerns when visiting Dad over the holidays? Do you think it’s time that Dad consider a move to an ALF?
Holiday visits can bring us up close and personal with what’s been going on with aging loved ones. We might be shocked by the changes. The holidays are certainly not the time to raise such concerns or have difficult discussions. We typically recommend spending the time observing and maybe doing some preparation. However, now that the new year is here, it may be time to move the conversations forward.
Approaching the ALF Conversation
Hopefully, it’s not the first time you’re having a conversation about care needs or plans. These sensitive topics are best discussed over time. Many adult children feel a sense of panic to make sure their elderly parents are safe, but rushing these conversations/changes can be a big mistake.
When broaching the subject, plan a calm, quiet time together with few distractions. Allow plenty of time. Involve siblings or other key people in Dad’s life. Share your objective observations and concerns.
You likely want to do some research beforehand. Be prepared to present some options. Don’t come in wedded to one solution. You’ll likely need to compromise.
What To Do if The Conversation’s Not Going Anywhere
First of all, don’t feel bad. Probably nine out of ten times the conversation doesn’t go as you’d hoped. But, it’s a start. Sometimes you have to give yourself permission to let your parent make mistakes. Try to come up with a plan moving forward, even if it’s not what you really want. If Dad absolutely doesn’t want to consider an ALF, discuss options to support him at home. List specific concerns and ask Dad for ideas of how he’s willing to address them.
One concession you can ask Dad to make is to get a care management assessment. Rather than arguing, suggest getting the neutral opinion of an expert. Don’t position this as someone you want to bring in to convince him to move to an ALF. Instead, position it as a chance to get resources and options. You might even joke that it’s a way to get you off Dad’s back. The care manager will listen to him, talk to everyone involved, evaluate and offer tailored recommendations. They can help you build a short-term and longer-term plan, as well as prioritize so everyone's not overwhelmed.
Our article, Six Strategies When Your Elderly Parent Refuses Help, discusses why these conversations often fail. It offers approaches you can take when that happens.
What to Do When Siblings Don’t Agree That Dad Needs an ALF
It helps to present a united front about your concerns. Dad might listen to one sibling more than another, especially on certain issues. While this can be annoying or even hurtful, sometimes it proves useful. However, siblings don’t always agree. You might have a brother who’s in denial. Or, perhaps your sister rarely visits and Dad always puts up his best front for her. They might have their own solutions in mind, or simply don’t think anything needs to be done. This can be the most frustrating situation of all.
Again, this is a time when a care management consultation comes in handy. Care managers often mediate family disagreements. They provide the non-emotional evaluation and opinion your family might need. If you’re at odds, ask your sibling(s) to consider this. They can be involved in hiring the care manager, too, so they don’t feel this person’s “on your side”. You can locate professional care managers in your area here.
If you remain at odds with your sibling(s), follow a similar path as when disagreeing with your parent. Discuss compromises and what can be done for now. But, importantly, also discuss your concerns, what’s realistic and boundaries. Talk about some scenarios that worry you and what would happen. For example, if your Dad ends up in the ER, this is what we’ll put into place. Or, in three months, we’ll meet and get an evaluation. If X has/hasn’t happened, we’ll proceed with the move to an ALF or Plan B. Explain what your boundaries will be in case of a crisis.
If Dad isn't ready to move forward with an ALF move, it's still an opportunity to get plans into place. Being prepared for different scenarios reduces the stress of the unknown. Get paperwork organized. Find out about local resources and have numbers ready in case problems arise. See if you/a sibling (or a care manager, especially if you live at a distance) can start attending key doctor’s appointments with Dad.
If the conversation goes well, what happens next?
First, Click Here to download our quick Guide to Choosing the Right Care Facility. This will give you the steps to take to make the transition as smooth as possible. With an organized process, you can avoid wasting a lot of time. Or worse, finding out your loved one has moved to the wrong ALF and you need to start over.
You might also want to check out one caregiver’s story of the struggles and eventual success getting Mom to move to an ALF.