senior woman and daughter deciding where she will leive

Preparing Your Family for Senior Living

Deciding Where to Spend Your Senior Years

One of the best times to look into senior living is when you first start needing just a little extra assistance with the tasks of daily living. That gives you a great opportunity to control the conversation and really look at communities to make sure that you’re getting exactly what you want – and it’s the best way to make sure your wishes, needs and wants are fulfilled. A great way to start is by finding out all your options and making sure that everyone understands your senior living goals.

Getting the Right Documentation Together

Deciding on an assisted living community means making sure you have all the relevant information – including seeking out legal, financial and medical resources. This will help you determine what’s right for you financially, emotionally and physically.

Many estate planners specialize in working with seniors and can walk you through the process of living wills, trusts and other estate planning tools. You’ll not only be protecting yourself, but you’ll make sure that your loved ones are taken care of the way you wish.

Waiting until an emergency happens to make medical decisions adds even more stress to a difficult situation. You probably already have strong feelings about what you want to happen in a medical emergency but may have been putting off the conversation with family members because it makes everyone feel uncomfortable. It’s not always an easy subject to talk about, but it’s one of the most critical discussions you can possibly have. If your wishes aren’t explicitly documented, decisions will be made for you, and it puts an added burden on your loved ones.

Your physician or other health care professional can share information about what your options are in different scenarios and how to make sure that your wishes are clearly documented in an advance directive for medical staff. Consider giving a trusted family member or friend medical power of attorney and complete an advance directive form from your state.

Sometimes Conversations Are Difficult

You know the ones we’re talking about. Those conversations you don’t want to have and maybe put off because of their sensitive, emotional nature. Conversations about moving into senior living, or about your medical or financial future. You worry that you’ll hurt someone’s feelings or upset them, or you want to avoid potential disagreements or conflict. But even though they’re hard, these conversations are some of the most important ones you’ll ever have.

It’s critical that you make decisions that are right for you – but helping your family understand why you feel the way you do, and why you’re making the decisions you’re making, might bring them along. When your decisions are acknowledged, understood and even supported by family members, you can relax and focus on what matters – continuing to live your best life.

How comfortable do you feel talking to your children about:

  • Your financial situation?
  • Your health?
  • Your end-of-life wishes?

These aren’t topics that are easily approached. Because we want to shield and protect our children, we always think there might be a better time. But no matter how difficult the conversation is, the reality is that not having the conversation is far more difficult in the long run.

Great Tips to Make Conversations With Your Family Members Easier

  1. Be prepared

    List out the topics you want to cover, in the order you want to cover them.

  2. Be direct

    Say it straight. That ensures you’ll be more easily understood.

  3. Encourage questions

    Because these topics can be emotional, people might not understand exactly what you’re saying.

  4. Be empathetic

    If you have family members who have trouble with change or don’t want to face the reality that we all age, the conversations can be particularly emotional. Give them some time to think about what you’re saying and return to the topic at another time. Be ready to revisit the conversation soon – or even just tell them that you love them, but you’ve made your decisions.

  5. Be strong

    Remind yourself: Your wants and needs MATTER. If you change your mind, you are definitely entitled to do so, but keep lines of communication open.

Starting the Conversation

Sometimes, the hardest part about the conversation are the first few words. One of the best ways is to talk about family or friends who have encountered their own difficult situations – and who didn’t have a plan in place. Explain that you’ve been thinking about it, and you don’t want it to happen to you. Try, “You’re such a wonderful son/daughter, and I trust you completely. That’s why I want to share some of my thoughts with you.”

Things Your Family Needs to Know

  1. The location of your will.
  2. What to do in case you need long-term care, including any long-term care insurance policies.
  3. The general state of your health – and the health history of your own parents, siblings and other close relatives.
  4. The names and phone numbers of your doctors, lawyers, financial planner, etc.
  5. Who has the power to make medical decisions when you can’t – and what you want those to be. If you don’t have a medical power of attorney, advance directive or health care proxy, now’s the time.
  6. If you’ve already made (and paid for) funeral arrangements, share the information with your family. Even if you haven’t, being frank and open about what you want to happen may sound painful, but in reality, it’s a gift.

Staying in Control of Your Life

By researching, preparing and taking clear steps in your senior living journey, you’re staying in control of the conversation – and of your future. It’s a great way to maintain your independence, even when you need a little extra help, and ensures that you can continue to live a rich, fulfilling life filled with friendship and activities.