How to Convince Your Parent to Move to Assisted Living

By Carol Bradley Bursack, editor

Conventional wisdom says that we all want to stay in our own homes for as long as we can. That is likely how most of our elders feel; however it’s not always in their best interest to do so. How do we talk with them about the realities and dangers of staying at home once their health is failing, and how do we convince them that a move to an assisted living center could be a very good – and positive option?

I believe that part of the problem with convincing elders, and many younger people for that matter, is that people haven’t been inside a modern assisted living center. Deep inside their gut, they harbor the outdated image of an “old folk’s home.” They consider a move from the family home one more step away from independence and one step closer toward death. They think a move to assisted living signifies to the world that they now have the proverbial “one foot on a banana peel and one foot in the grave.” This image and mindset is stubborn.

For many elders, some in-home help and a personal alarm can be enough. They are able to stay in their own home for years with a relatively small amount of help. Then, a spouse dies. The survivor is now truly alone. There’s no one to get help for them should they fall and can’t set off their alarm. There are few opportunities to socialize. Meals become a chore, so they don’t eat well. Memory is failing, and the stove doesn’t get turned off. The single elder, stubbornly clinging to the idea that their familiar home is best, can often be a sad and lonely sight.

Contrast this life with living in a good assisted living center, whether it’s a stand-alone building, one connected to a nursing home or a small family operation where only a few seniors board. In any of these situations, seniors can thrive because: They don’t have the responsibility of keeping up a home, so they are relieved of the need to hire help or let the house deteriorate. They have people around should they need medical help or other assistance. They have choices of food and snacks with nutritional value and, in most cases, good quality. Perhaps most importantly, they make new friends and have an abundance of activities to choose from.

Okay, you are convinced. You know that you can’t keep providing the constant oversight for your parent that has been taking over your life, and by extension, taking over the lives of your spouse and children. How do you convince your parent that it’s time to move on?

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How to Convince Your Parent to Move to Assisted Living

How to Convince Your Parent to Move to Assisted Living originally appeared on

Here are my thoughts on convincing an elderly parent that its time to think about moving to assisted living:

  1. First, plant the seed. Don’t approach your parent as though you’ve already made the decision for him or her. Just mention that there are options that could make life easier and more fun.
  2. Next, offer a tour of local assisted living centers, if he or she is willing, but don’t push it. Drop the subject if necessary, and wait for another day.
  3. Watch for a “teachable moment.” Did Mom fall, but escape getting badly hurt? Use that as a springboard. You may want to wait a bit, or immediately say something like, “Wow, that was close. Once you’re feeling better, maybe we could go look at the new assisted living center over by the church. We’d both feel better if you had people around.” Go with your gut on the timing, but use the “moment.”
  4. Again, don’t push unless you consider this an emergency. It’s hard to wait, but you may need to. Wait for, say, a very lonely day when Mom is complaining about how she never sees her friends anymore. Then, gently, try again.
  5. Check with your friends and friends of your parents. See if any live happily in an assisted living center nearby, or if their parents do. Just like your first day of school when you looked for a friend – any friend – who may be in your class, your parent would feel much better if there were a friend already in the center.
  6. Even if they won’t know anyone, you can still take your parent to watch a group having fun playing cards or wii bowling. Show off the social aspects of a good center. Keep it light and don’t force the issue. Tour more than one center, if possible, and ask your parent for input. Big center or small? New and modern or older and cozy?
  7. Show interest in how much privacy a resident has. Ask about bringing furniture from home and how much room there is. Take measuring tapes and visualize, if you can see some rooms, how your parent’s room(s) would look. Show excitement, as you would do if you were helping your parent move to a new apartment, because that’s what you are doing.
  8. Stress the safety aspects.
  9. Stress the fact that there’s no yard cleanup, but flowers can be tended to. There’s no need to call a plumber if the sink breaks, but there are plenty of things to do if people want. There’s plenty of freedom to be alone, but company when they desire it.

Then wait. Let it all sink in. Sorry to say that if you want your parent to make the decision, you could have to wait for another fall or something else before they will be willing to take that step. However, if your family is close-knit, have a meeting with the parent at this point and tell him or her how much better the family would feel if the move were made.

Enlist a family friend or spiritual leader to chat with your parent and state the case for this move. Third parties often can make headway when family fails.

Be sensitive to your parent’s feelings. Leaving a home where he or she lived with a life partner, raised kids and once had friends among the neighbors is emotionally difficult. Whittling down a lifetime of possessions is hard. Be kind, be sensitive and try to make it be about your parent and not about you.

However, if you must – let your parent know that it will help you to know that he or she is safe. Play the “we are worried about your care.” It’s the truth. It’s just easier if you can swing it, to let the parent make the decision.

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Helping Elderly Parents Transition to Assisted Living
What to Look For When Visiting an Elder in Senior Housing

How to Convince Your Parent to Move to Assisted Living originally appeared on

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Leslie R.
Leslie R.10 months ago

My Mother-in-Law is 90 years old and lives a half mile from us. She won't live with anyone in the family because she 'doesn't want to be a burden', but she has dementia and a life-long problem with depression and anxiety that she has always refused to acknowledge, let alone treat. We've tried to keep her at home by tending to her needs and hiring additional services but her relationship with the rest of the family has deteriorated to the point where everyone is miserable. All she does is criticize, yell and cry and is so unhappy that it's bringing the entire family down. It's sad, but we really have no choice but to move her to an assisted living facility February 1st. My own Mom is 80, lives 1/2 mile in the other direction, and is dying of cancer. But she's a sweet woman who welcomes help and we'll do whatever it takes to let her stay home until the end. I think it's rather obnoxious when people make comments suggesting that families aren't doing the right thing when they move seniors to assisted living facilities. Some of them are extraordinarily difficult to deal with.

Frank Small
Frank Small1 years ago

The lack of realism involved when talking about "communicating" with parents in emotional/cognitive decline who are determined to maintain unhealthy living conditions in their home is quite disturbing. I, as well as a number of other licensed clinical social workers who read this article and who are familiar with geriatric issues, must say that we are un- impressed with the inherent "Pollyanna" mentality of the article and responses. The article is worthless for persons who are struggling with elderly parents whose mentality does not coincide with the "Cleaver" mentality - and those are the persons who are looking for an honest discussion. Adult children of parents who are reasonable and approachable don't need these articles, and adult children of parents who are struggling with judgment and reasonability issues just feel like these blogs are a waste of time.

Sammy S.
Sammy S.3 years ago

Thank you for posting such an insightful article. My aunt, who raised me, had Alzheimer's. At first, I was able to manage her care, but then her condition continued to worsen. At her worst, she nearly burned our house down when she didn't remember she had turned the stove on. I loved my aunt dearly, and the last thing I wanted to do was "send her away." Her doctor suggested I consider an assisted living facility. I was reluctant, but I knew it was something we had to do. I found a great facility, and my aunt lived out the rest of her life there. I was able to visit her regularly, and I knew she was cared for. I had to come to the realization that if she stayed with me, she would have been hurt. Her doctor and I sat down and talked with her, and she decided that assisted living was the best decision.Thank you, once again, for helping others who are struggling with this decision.

Siti Rohana
Siti R.4 years ago

what my current friend is going through deciding care for her parents.

4 years ago

If we love our parents and they do not wish to end their lives in a strange place, then we should do all we can to help them so they can enjoy their final years in the place they call home. It likely will mean inconvenience and a huge drain on our finances, but we gain so much by allowing them to retain the dignity of independence. I know, I've been there and it was one of the most difficult, agonising and hilarious times of my life, but they left me with far more than money could buy - a strength of character and a patience I never knew I had. Old people are precious, count to ten and hug them.

Vera Y.
Vera Yuno4 years ago

My mother and father will die with me.

Lynda G.
L G.4 years ago


Talk to parents early is my advice, many of these places enable short stays so people can have the experience without having to make an immediate decision. Assisted living included. Make the point about security which is a big issue now, and the activities and socialisation. Hopefully there is a suitable place near their current neighbourhood so relationships of old can be retained and trips to familiar shops etc too. Communication is the name of the game here..

Lynda G.
L G.4 years ago

In Australia there is a big shift to keep people in their own homes for longer and teams of carers, food providers, health professionals etc etc prevail, sometimes at a tiny cost, sometimes free depending on the circumstances. We have a small population we can still do it.

I live in the country am 60 years old and don't see my children or grandchildren often enough so I made the decision to return to the city recently. I looked at all the options and made the decision to buy into a 'over 55' independent living establishment which is 5km from the CBD. I bought one with a courtyard so I can still grow veg etc. The philosophy (a church group) is that they will ensure people stay in their apartment until they die which suits me. They have a nursing home and dementia facility next door facing another street.

I have a serious health issue and when sick I need immediate back up and this facility can provide that. My fear here is that I'll collapse and no-one will know. At the apartment I'll have security if I want to go away. I will be able to share my meals with others or cook my own. I will be able to participate in the yoga and other activities if I choose, in short I will have my independence and back up security should I need it. And, if down the track I get Alzheimers they'll ensure I'm safe without my family having to worry about placing me. (cont)

Dianne Robertson
Dianne Robertson4 years ago

Some how we lost my snappy ending. WE had made the transition that I NEEDED.
If, on the other hand, yours is a family that doesn't--can't-- won't talk,you have my sympathy. Then your best bet is to hope they Will talk with SOMEBODY THEY DO trust . Unfortunately,decisions may be delayed until something bad happens and then SOMEBODY will be blamed for putting SOMEBODY SOMEPLACE. Do NOT buy into the blaming, Just promise to learn from this tragedy.Talk with your children. Make plans together.Change the pattern.
I love my place.I love my kids. They know that I"m safe and comfortable. I have lots of new and old friends. Life is the art of the possible.

Dianne Robertson
Dianne Robertson4 years ago

The BEST way to convince parents to move to an assisted living is to discuss YOUR life changes and concerns with them. If YOU are open ,calm and realistic about what YOU can afford ( for yourself ) and what you CAN DO (for all of you)Then all of you should be in the mindset to discuss options as they become needed.
When my husband died in 2001, I was only 57 but dealing with the house,yard, SNOW PLOWING, and heating bills at the same time as grieving ,was more than I could handle. FORTUNATELY, WE all had discussed, over years,what our options and priorities were. I certainly did NOT want to live with ANY of our children.I couldn't manage the house etc. alone. I needed people around in case I needed help. I enjoy my privacy when I want it. Cooking and eating alone all the time is a drag.You get the picture.-----My priorities and needs were already understood. We All had already discussed various assisted living facilities and care homes as they had opened.The idea WASN"T new. The only question left was which one. Since I knew myself and my family NOBODY had to convince anybody .I looked at several places.I asked for a tour and spent the afternoon.I chose the one I didn't want to leave. They had a waiting list.I put MYSELF on the list. I took the floor plan and measurements home and called the kids.I gave away extra stuff, bought new special things and looked foreward to"my lucky day"--Moving day. The kids all helped ME make the transition that I calmly,and realistic