When it’s time to talk to your aging parents about downsizing to a smaller living space or assisted living environment, the topic can often be intimidating to broach. Although the move may seem practical at this point in your mom or dad’s life, the idea of moving into a smaller space and getting rid of treasured possessions can provoke very strong emotions, particularly if the move is necessitated by aging or poor health. Here are a few tips for beginning the conversation on this challenging subject.
Start the Discussion Early
It’s never too early to start talking with your parents about how they imagine their future. Your parents may believe that they will continue to manage in their current home as they age, and the transition will be easier if you begin talking about other options before a move is immediately necessary. The topic will likely require multiple discussions before you and your parents can reach a decision that you both feel comfortable with. Try bringing up an older friend or neighbor who has recently downsized, and talk to your parents about what decisions they would like to make if they faced a similar situation.
Share Your Concerns
Most parents respond well if you’re open and honest about why you think it’s time for them to downsize. Rather than being controlling and making choices for them, share your concerns about your parents’ current living situation. Most parents don’t like the idea of their children worrying about them, and they’re less likely to feel defensive or upset if you express your fears and your desire for them to be as safe, comfortable and happy as possible.
Let Your Parents Stay in Control
Simply listening to your parents is far more important than figuring out what to say to them. Downsizing can be emotional for many older adults because the move makes them feel like they’re losing a certain amount of control over their lives. Let your parents know that while you may make suggestions, the decision is ultimately theirs to make. Rather than imposing your assessment of their lives, ask gentle questions about their current living situation that will allow them to come to their own conclusions. If you’re discussing moving to an assisted living facility, your parents may have the option of living there for a short time, before making the final decision to sell their house. This way, your parents don’t have to let go of their current home and possessions until they feel certain that they can be content in this new living situation.
Talking to your parents about downsizing can be a sensitive subject. Starting the discussion early and making the decision together can help your parent transition with dignity and with the confidence that they have your full support. If you have any questions about downsizing, you can contact me at 905-642-5669.