How to Start the Conversation with Your Parents About Senior Living

image of family conversation

A practical guide to having “the talk” with your parents and senior loved ones.

image of family conversationFor many families, gradual changes in a parent’s health or mood are signals that it is time for more support. You already may have a sense that a senior living community could be a good option. But, how do you start that conversation with your loved one?

“The talk” can feel like one of the biggest obstacles to moving to a senior living community. Where do you begin? How do you talk – and listen – with care?

It helps to have a plan. That’s why we’re offering this guide to starting the conversation about senior living with your parents and senior loved ones. Read on to learn how to have “the talk” in a way that is respectful, caring, and minimizes stress for you and your loved one.

How to Prepare for the Conversation About Senior Living with Your Parents

Take some time preparing to have the conversation about moving to a senior living community. The better you prepare, the more likely the conversation – or conversations – will go well.

  • First, accept that the conversation may be several smaller conversations over time, rather than one big conversation.
  • Learn which type of community will be the best fit. Learn more here: Memory Care or Assisted Living: Which is the Right Choice?
  • Visit senior living communities. Make preliminary visits to get a feel for where your loved one would fit in best, and get answers to specific questions about support services and apartment availability.
  • Be ready for – and comfortable with – your loved one objecting. Prepare to talk openly and honestly.
  • Go in with the right mindset. Sometimes, when caregivers are stressed it can be tempting to try to take control. Remember that you are having a conversation with another adult who likely is having a hard time, too.
  • If there are several caregivers or family members involved, decide who will start the conversation. While it is helpful to have everyone on board, a group approach can appear confrontational.

When Should You Have the Conversation About Moving to Senior Living?

The best time to have a conversation about moving to senior living is before you have an emergency. Give your loved one (and yourself) time to process the information.

Is your loved one safe at home? Read the guide: Signs Your Senior Loved One May No Longer Be Safe At Home.

  • Have the conversation when you both are relaxed and have time to talk, perhaps around the kitchen table during a casual visit.
  • Look for natural opportunities to start the conversation, like your loved one mentioning home repairs, talking about feeling isolated, or receiving a card or call from a friend in a senior living community.
  • Feel free to gossip! Talk about family friends and extended family who enjoy living in and visiting senior communities.

Choose Your Words with Care

How you talk about senior living matters. Some words unintentionally sound cold or institutional. Choose words that are warmer and more accurately reflect senior communities today. For example:

  • Community vs. Facility. You’ll sometimes hear references to assisted living facilities or skilled nursing facilities. “Facility” is usually associated with cold or bureaucratic institutions. Community is a much better representation of the reality of senior living now. A community is a place where people with common interests and experiences enjoy time together. At Sunnyside Manor, that sense of community is at the heart of all that we do. Learn More: Community Building and Senior Health
  • Apartment vs. Room or Unit. Remember that you are suggesting a move to a new home. Rooms and units are more often associated with hospitals. An apartment is a place where people are at home.
  • Support vs. Need. Talking through a list of needs can strike a sour note for seniors who value independence. Support and supportive services are uplifting; they enable you to live fully and do what you enjoy.

Listen with Care

It has been said that we have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we talk. That is truer than ever when talking with a senior loved one.


  • Your loved one may be afraid and imagining the worst. Their fears are valid. Making a major change is challenging at any age.
  • Practice empathy. Can you imagine being on the other side of the conversation? What would you want your family to know?
  • Making the decision to move to a senior living community may take many conversations. If your loved one seems to be getting overwhelmed, ask if you can revisit the topic at another time.

Enlist Help

It is always okay to ask for help. Starting the conversation about moving to a senior living community can be challenging, even in the most caring families. You don’t have to do it alone.

  • Seek out extended family and friends with similar experiences.
  • Talk to your loved one’s physician. Ask for their help in making a recommendation.
  • Lean on people you and your loved one trust, like close friends, clergy, and advisors.


Learn More About Why Families Rely On Sunnyside Manor

When it is time to make decisions about senior living, we are here to help. Sunnyside Manor offers assisted living, memory care, and skilled nursing and rehabilitation. Learn more about Sunnyside Manor’s resources for caregivers. Whether you’re looking for short-term support or a longer-term plan, begin with our “Getting Started” guide. Please call us at 888-696-2052 to speak with a senior living expert.

Sunnyside Manor, located in Wall NJ, is the area’s premier senior living community. It features three distinctive neighborhoods: Independence ‘Plus’ Assisted Living, Recollections Memory Care, and Skilled Nursing and Rehabilitation.

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