“I’m Not Moving to a Nursing Home!” Responses to 7 Excuses

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Elders often make their objections clear to children, family members and friends when they're faced with the prospect of moving to a senior living community, such as assisted living.

Some concerns revolve around giving up their independence or leaving a long-time home. Others are based on the perception of senior housing, fear of the unknown and elders confronting the reality that they are aging.

Don't ignore the objections, which can be overwhelming. Instead, prepare to respond to them, with insight from Gail Samaha, an elder advisor and founder of GMS Associates in Scituate, Mass., and Sheri L. Samotin, founder and president of LifeBridge Solutions, a Naples, Fla., company that provides family transition planning, caregiver coaching and other services.

Objection 1: "Oh, don't worry about me."

Caregiver response: "I do worry about you. That is my job as your child. That's my responsibility, to be sure that you are safe. I want you to stay in your home for as long as you can. But let's discuss the pros and cons."

Expert tip: When it's appropriate, you may need to be blunt and say "It's no longer working." But when delivering this dose of reality, back it up with reasons why you and their doctor (if he/she agrees) feel this way, Samaha says. Cite examples when possible – incidents which no matter how minor, could have easily been disastrous – the time dad fell off the ladder doing yard work; the evenings that mom accidentally left a burner on overnight after cooking dinner."

Objection 2: "I'm not moving to a nursing home!"

Caregiver response: "Assisted Living is very different from a nursing home. It's like a condominium. You have your own apartment, there's a sit-down restaurant, activities every day and medical personnel onsite just in case you need them. Why don't we go take a look – no commitments – we'll just check it out, so you can see what you think."

Expert tip: Your parents' generation likely remembers the institution-like nursing homes of the 1960s and 70s. Today, most elders go to assisted living communities, rather than directly into a nursing home (unless they are recovering from a hospital stay) Clearly explain the differences between assisted living and the nursing homes of the past. Sit with your parent and visit the websites of some communities in your area. When they see photos of the accommodations, food and grounds, they may be more open to an in-person visit.

Objection 3: "But I'm not ready yet."

Caregiver response: "OK, but we can prepare in advance, so we can take our time and explore all the options."

Expert tip: Talk about how comforting it would be to both the elder and the family to know that if an emergency ever happened, mom or dad would already be in an environment that provides that cushion of care right when its needed it?"

Objection 4: "I want to decide where and how I am going to live."

Caregiver response: "I want you to choose where you want to live. Let's go on tours to look at your options. The ultimate decision is yours."

Expert tip: You can take charge to help them see their options and review the contract and costs, but give them control in the decision-making process, Samotin says. For example, let them choose between two facilities, or if that is not possible due to location, services and price, let them choose their room.

Objection 5: "I don't want to be around all those old people."

Caregiver response: "Many residents are the same age as you and they are as active as you are. They go to the theater, they play bridge and blackjack. They have book clubs, happy hours and movie nights. Let's just go check it out."

Expert tip: To have this response, you need to have done your research about senior living facilities and which amenities and activities may be of interest to your parent. Or if they have a sense of humor, Samotin suggests this response: "You're right. They do look kind of old. You're going to come in here and shake them up. You're going to be the talk of the town." Regardless of the response, the goal is to convince your parent to at least visit a senior community and see with their own eyes what it's all about.

Objection 6: "I can't afford it."

Caregiver response: "Actually, it will cost about the same – or maybe even less – than you're paying for your house. I have done the research. With the money you are spending on your mortgage (or rent) taxes, heat, utilities and other costs, it can be more affordable. And there are funds available, with your long-term care insurance and even veterans assistance."

Expert tip: This will take some legwork, as you figure out your parents' existing monthly expenses and how that compares to the cost of senior housing, Samaha says. The options for financial assistance also vary, depending on their background.

Objection 7: "It's too much work to move."

Caregiver response: "You're spending all this time worrying about your home. I want you to be able to enjoy your life. I want to enjoy the time we have together, instead of cleaning the house, mowing the lawn and worrying about your safety."

Expert tip: You want to preserve your relationship with your parent, Samaha says. Explain to them how the move could improve your relationship with them, for the better.

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12 Comments

Excellent article! Expert tip for Objection 1 is well said.
11 years ago, my 89-year-old father was often up in the middle of the night, wandering, or getting dressed, wanting to leave the house “for lunch". I was concerned about his safety, and I was exhausted.
A geriatric social worker advised me to bluntly tell him that I didn’t want him to live with us anymore, saying he wouldn’t be able to argue with that.
As predicted, when I brought up his moving out, he said he was happy living right there with me. He perceived my response as harsh — and it was. I’ll forever see his eyes filling with tears. If I could take back those words, “I don’t want you to live here anymore," I would!
How much better would it have been had I gently but firmly said, “Dad, this is hard for me to say because I care about you, but it’s no longer working for you to stay in the house. It has become very hard for me. I worry about you. The doctor says, and I agree, that it would be safer for you to move… I love you very much, and I will come see you often.”
If only I been better armed with these tips. Incidentally, his move to assisted living greatly changed our relationship for the better.
My parent's stock answer to anything was "we can manage".... well they couldn't, yet Mom refused caregivers, cleaning crews, refused to use her walker.

One time I brought to their house a very well prepared high end brochure for independent living, a place that looked and felt like a 5-star hotel, indoor swimming pool, gym, bank, hair dresser, doctor office, 3 restaurants on site, etc.

I left the brochure for my parents to read, and the following week I asked them what did they think. I was hoping they would be interested. Well, they said it was a very nice place and they would think about it in a couple of years. A couple of years??? HELLO, they were 93 and 97 at the time.... [sigh].

Sometimes no matter what we say our parent(s) will become very stubborn. They don't want to lose their independents.... yet I couldn't convince them that they would have MORE independents living at the complex.
One more thing, and then I'm done. When mom or dad are no longer able to mow their own lawn, do their own minor household repairs, grocery shop or pay their own bills - they have no business living alone in their own house any longer. They have progressed beyond the place of "independence" - since they now must rely on others to do everything for them. Sometimes if we point out to them that they are no longer independent anyway, the point hits home.