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How do I convince my sister that assisted living is the best option?

My youngest sister has assumed primary care for my 83-year-old mother. She is her executrix and handles all of my Mom's finances. We have an older sister in the same town, but she is not as involved in Mom's care for a variety of reasons. Both my brother and I live quite far away (400 miles) from my mom. While my brother seems content to let my sister care for my Mom, I try to stay very involved and fly down to see her about once every two months. When my Dad died about 2 1/2 years ago, my older sister and I thought assisted living would be the best option for Mom. But my youngest sister refused - and still refuses - to even consider it. She has only been to one assisted living facility in her city and will not visit any others. Her husband, I believe, has been a big influence on her, urging her not to put my Mom in a "home." (Clearly they both have very outdated ideas of what is considered elder care these days.) Mom broke her leg two weeks ago when she was alone in her apartment and is now in rehab. I found out one of the assisted living near my sister will take a resident on a month-to-month basis. The administrator said this would be a perfect chance for my Mom to rehab where help is right near her and it's a chance for her to check out assisted living.
Status: Open    Jun 03, 2015 - 11:33 AM

Relationships, Senior Living Communities

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Expert Answers

Jul 08, 2015 - 04:01 PM

As with most families, it sounds like there is some emotional resistance to senior living. It's always a difficult task to overcome objections in a situation like you have right now, but let's start back from the beginning to see if a process will help.

First, you have to be aware of exactly the reasons your mother will benefit from assisted living. Write down as may as you can think of. Most importantly, relate the services back to her unique situation, beginning with the most pressing of crises. In her current situation, it sounds like she would benefit greatly from 24 hour emergency response so she doesn't face the danger of laying on the floor for hours should she fall again.

Second, begin thinking about the logical objections to why mom should move. When you are having a reasonable conversation, your can answer the objections because you have established a response already. A great example is cooking. I speak with families every day about mom or dad cooking, and usually they will say that mom is cooking ok. However, with further conversation, I usually find out that mom isn't using anything but a microwave for TV Dinners and is forgetting to eat several days a week.

Third, armed with your first two tasks, enlist the assistance of family. Sons stay in denial far longer in my experience, so when you speak with your brother, be sure to have a very very very solid case as to why mom needs to move. Don't be shy at calling her care level at its face value either. If she is incontinent of bowel, don't mince words or try to be politically correct. I think it is always wise to brainstorm worst-case scenarios as well, because you are talking a long game. Maybe mom has had a couple medication errors that have been mild - but WHAT IF she forgets her meds all day or takes all of them at once? It happens every day to seniors.

Fourth, be willing to compromise with creative solutions. Go in with guns blazing for assisted living, of course. I always feel that it is best to lead with your desired outcome. However, it may be a great next step to start additional services in order to keep mom at home. There are several benefits, not the least of which is getting your family to agree that mom needs more help. If the ball is rolling, it is easier to speed up. Getting started is the hard part.

Hope these four things help in discussing senior living with your family. It's not exhaustive, but I hope it gives you a few ideas. The conversation is hard because it is wrapped in so much emotion, and I have great empathy for your position in seeing that there needs to be a change. Just keep taking one small step after another.
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