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Worried About My Mom

Dear Plums,

My mother still lives at home. She’s been in her house for almost 50 years, and she doesn’t want to move. Dad has been gone for a few years, and my brother and I have been trying to look after her, but she is no longer safe in her home. We wish she would consider moving to a senior living community with the support and services she needs. How do we have “the talk” about moving?




Dear “Worried,”

You’re in a tough spot, and no doubt, you have deeply rooted feelings about this home filled with your memories, too. It’s possible your mother shares some of the same concerns. While taking action may not be a step she’s willing to take now, it’s important she consider alternatives before she needs them. It may take a tender approach, but it’s worth the effort. Here are some steps to consider taking.


Investigate the Options Without Her

Start by doing some homework on your own. There may be a lot of options in your area, but it’s likely they’re not all good ones. Find out which senior living communities offer the best staff and services. A thorough online search of a facility will provide reviews, history of safety violations, and an overview of services. Visit in person, talk to other residents, and gather feedback through your own social network. 


Gather Materials Worth Sharing

Don’t hesitate to meet with an admissions counselor for each facility. Gather useful materials that may come in handy when you’re able to talk with your mom. Staff will provide you with apartment layouts, class schedules, a la carte services, menus, event calendars, shuttle schedules — by the time you’re finished, you’ll have a good understanding of what each community has to offer.


Figure Out the Finances

Meeting with an admissions counselor will also help you determine what is financially feasible. It could be that your mom believes that a move is not within her financial reach. Identify the monthly cost and included services, and this information will help you crunch these important numbers with your mom. 


Start The Talk” With Mostly Listening

Once you’ve done some preliminary research, it’s time to sit down with your mom and tenderly open a discussion. Start by asking her questions: “How is she feeling about managing alone in the house?” “Does she ever feel overwhelmed or lonely?” “What are her concerns?” Listen with empathy. Even though you are equipped with information and possibly some options worth considering, make this first discussion just about listening.


Connect With Friends

Find out if your mom has friends in any of the places you liked. If so, suggest to your mom to reach out and plan a date.  A senior living community is just that — a community. Connecting with a friend and having coffee in an onsite bistro or attending a concert or church service will not only help your mom connect with a friend already comfortable there, but will also illuminate the possibilities within that new community. Seeing her friend thriving and feeling at home might help your mom envision herself there, too.


Continuity of Care

No one wants to think about needing nursing care. That’s a tough subject to broach. It’s worth, however, asking your mom if she’s thought about where she’d like to receive care in the event she needs it. Many senior living communities offer various levels of care, from independent living to assisted living to nursing care. Finding the right community may also offer the reassurance of that continuity of care. Many senior living communities will also offer itemized services to help residents stay in their independent living units for as long as possible. If, however, your mom ends up needing a higher level of care, a move to a different building on the same grounds will be a transition within, by that time, an already familiar community.

Now may also be a good time to make sure your mom has a medical Power of Attorney (POA) in place. Reassure her that, whether it’s you or someone else, having a POA, and communicating her wishes to that designated person, will ensure those wishes are met. 

The hard truth is that, if your mom does not choose to move, the decision may need to be made for her down the road. If your mom is in the hospital and requires a discharge to a nursing facility, it is likely that you or your brother may receive a call from the hospital discharge planner. Doing your research now, with or without your mom, will render you far more equipped to receive this call and make the right decision regarding your mom’s care. 

As for talking with your mom now, reassure her that there’s no need to make an immediate decision. Take some tours, allow her time to envision herself in a new environment, crunch the numbers, and she might surprise you with a willingness to embrace change. Sometimes, one just needs to see that a change of scenery is not a loss, but actually a gain — perhaps many gains, with safety, services and a valuable social network. Other times, it might be one little thing that just feels right — the presence of a friend, a gardening club, or a shuttle service to the grocery store. For now, it’s your mom’s decision to make, and she will know what feels right for her. 

Good luck, and remember there’s always room in our orchard for you.