Addressing an Older Parent’s Fears About Assisted Living

As an adult child of an aging parent, you may be thinking that your mother or father might be well-served moving into an assisted living community. You may have even broached this subject with your parent. You may have been met with concerns and fears expressed by your parent about assisted living. If that is the case, you are far from alone. Adult children of aging parents oftentimes find themselves dealing with fears expressed by a mother or father regarding residing in an assisted living community. 

There are a number of steps you can take in order to address fears of your parent in regards to living in an assisted living community. These are:

  • Shoot down myths and misconceptions about assisted living
  • Recognize and respect your parent’s agency and autonomy
  • Take your parent’s fears and concerns seriously
  • Focus on what does not change if your parent goes to assisted living
  • Make the move your parent’s idea

Shoot Down Myths and Misconceptions 

There are five pervasive myths about assisted living that simply are not true. Odds are that your parent has heard other people make mention of these myths:

  • Assisted living communities are nothing more than spruced up nursing homes
  • Assisted living communities are only for people who are ill
  • Assisted living residents lose their independence
  • There is no privacy in assisted living
  • Assisted living is too expensive for most people

We address each of these untrue conceptions about assisted living. 

Assisted Living Communities are not Spruced Up Nursing Homes

Nursing homes are for women and men with chronic health conditions. Nursing homes are for people who require around the clock medical attention. This is not what assisted living communities are all about. 

Assisted living communities accurately are described as the best of two worlds. A resident of an assisted living community has their own private apartment, suite, or room. In addition, a resident of an assisted living community also benefits from caregivers. These caregivers are available on-site around the clock. They are there to assist a resident with various activities of daily living that they cannot effectively accomplish on their own.

Bottom line: assisted living communities are not spruced up nursing homes. 

Assisted Living Communities Are Only for People Who Are Ill

Another persistent myth about assisted living is that these communities are only for people who are ill. In fact, assisted living communities are designed for women and men who need some basic assistance with activities of daily living. These include such things as meal preparation, laundry, housekeeping, preparation of nutritious meals, and so forth. 

Bottom line: assisted living communities are not only for people who are ill. 

Assisted Living Residents Lose Their Independence

Yet another myth about assisted living is that residents of these communities lose their independence. The truth is that assisted living communities are designed to empower their residents, to support their residents in being as independent as possible. The professional staff of assisted living communities assist residents in tending to certain activities of daily living so that they can enjoy their lives as independently as possible.

Bottom line: residents of assisted living communities do not lose their independence. 

There Is No Privacy in an Assisted Living Community

A commonplace misconception about assisted living is that there is no privacy. In fact, a person residing in an assisted living community can have as much privacy as he or she desires. A resident of an assisted living community has his or her private quarters – an apartment, suite, or room, depending on the community and a resident’s desires.

Bottom line: residents of assisted living communities do have privacy

Assisted Living Is Too Expensive for Most People

Finally, many older individuals and their families are operating under the misconception that assisted living is too expensive for most people. The reality is when you take a close look at assisted living, dollar for dollar this type of community is not as costly as imagined. 

The reality is that for a monthly fee, assisted living provides a wide range of services that include:

  • Housing
  • Utilities
  • Meals
  • Daily activities
  • Transportation
  • Assistance with other tasks of daily living
  • Other type of individualized assistance 

Bottom line: assisted living is not too expensive for most people.

Recognize and Respect Your Parent’s Agency and Autonomy

When it comes to an older parent’s fears associated with assisted living, there is a tendency among people in this generational cohort to feel that their children or other family members are pressuring them to make a transition into this type of living environment. One way in which you can address your own parent’s fears about assisted living is to honor his or her agency and autonomy. 

Absent a determination that your parent is no longer capable to make decisions for his or her self (which typically would make your mother or father ineligible for assisted living), you parent has the right to make a decision about where to live. In order to dispel a fear about losing control over important life decisions, you need to assure your parent that in the broader scheme of things, the decision to move into an assisted living community is a determination ultimately to be made by your mother or father.

Take Your Parent’s Fears and Concerns Seriously

An error many adult children make when it comes to fears expressed by their older parents in regard to assisted living is to not take this parental concerns seriously. A good many adult children shrug off fears expressed by aging parents as if these concerns have no merit.

The fact is that if your parent expresses fears and concerns about assisted living, you need to take them seriously. You need to listen to what you parent has to say in regard to his or her fears and concerns. You need to strive to address them in a serious and meaningful manner rather than just write them off.

Focus on What Does Not Change if Your Parent Goes to Assisted Living

The reality is that many things in a person’s life does not change when a move is made to assisted living. You need to underscore to your mother or father that important aspects of his or her life will remain unaltered when his or her address becomes an assisted living community. 

For example, a resident of an assisted living community is still able to do things with family and friends – at an assisted living residence and away from the community. A resident of an assisted living community can still engage in hobbies and other activities that a person may have enjoyed before such a transition.

In the final analysis, many aspects of a person’s life do not change when that individual becomes a part of an assisted living community. In fact, in many ways a resident of an assisted living community has more time and energy for activities and the like previously enjoyed because that individual has useful assistance with tending to different activities of daily living.

Make the Move Your Parent’s Idea

Finally, if at all possible, you really do want to make certain that the ultimate decision about moving into assisted living is your own parent’s idea. You don’t want to make this an allusion – you really do want the decision to move to assisted living to be a decision made by your mother or father. When they are the real decision maker, that status is evidence that they have overcome fears and concerns previously associated with this type of change, move, or transition.