daughter caring for her senior mother

When Is It Time for Assisted Living?

When you need to talk to a parent about senior living, starting the conversation is often the hardest part. If you’re unsure how to approach this important discussion, start here. We’ll give you guidance that can help your family in your search.

All too often, we notice the signs that more care is needed, but feel guilty about bringing them up with our loved ones. That’s totally normal. But when you notice they’re having trouble with the activities of daily living – like dressing, bathing or cooking – it’s time to speak up.

What’s the right way to open a dialogue about assisted living? That depends on the person, but our tips can set you on the right track. Using this guide, you’ll learn more about options in senior living and discover new ways to start the discussion with your loved one.


Whether you’re talking to your parents or another older adult in your life, they may have many questions, concerns and misconceptions about senior living. Expect questions about senior living in general – like the difference between assisted living and other levels of care – along with questions about specific communities’ dining quality, activities, amenities and services.

It’s not hard to find answers. Starting online – including the assisted living page on this website – you can learn about what amenities and services each community offers. There are also many educational resources which can help you get an idea of what assisted living is all about – check out this interactive fact sheet from the American Health Care Association/National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL).

Here’s one thing you’ll discover: assisted living today is very different from memory care or long-term skilled nursing support. And it’s definitely nothing like a nursing home. In a modern assisted living community, the goal is to surround each resident with a supportive, homelike environment, full of active friends and new opportunities.

One more thing: bringing your other family members into the discussion and making sure you’re all on the same page is very important. Be sure to share the bits of vital info you learn with siblings, spouses and anyone else with an interest in your loved one’s well-being. The move to senior living impacts the senior the most, of course, but it’s important to keep everyone in the loop.



Find the right time to bring up senior living – like a quiet moment when your parent isn’t experiencing a lot of stress. Keep a positive, forward-thinking, optimistic tone and focus on the fact that this is a good thing for their future. Most importantly, don’t push too hard if your loved one isn’t receptive. They may just need time to think.


Asking questions like these can help reframe the discussion toward your genuine concern for their long-term health and happiness – and help your parent understand what you’re worried about in their day-to-day life.

  • Is there anything about staying at home that worries you?
  • Are there things you enjoyed doing but can’t do anymore?
  • Do you ever feel lonely?
  • How do you picture the future?
  • How are things going around the house?
  • Is there anything your doctor said recently that you think I should know about?

Everyone wants their concerns to be heard. When you ask the questions, really listen to the answers. You care about your parents – and you want to make sure they know and understand that. Active listening is what transforms these questions and answers into a dialogue where you truly understand each other.

Listening is also key to convincing your parents that it’s time to choose assisted living. When you talk to them, listen closely to not just what they’re saying but also the tone they say it in. Are they angry? Sad? Scared? Choosing a new community is a highly emotional decision, so take heed to their concerns and show empathy.

Active listening also means engaging your body language with intention. Lean forward and give them your undivided attention. Don’t interrupt what they have to say – simply take it in and respond when it’s your turn to speak. And during the first conversation, it’s probably best to keep things one-on-one so your loved one doesn’t feel ambushed or pressured.


Many seniors mistakenly believe that a move to assisted living represents a loss of freedom. In reality, it can be a path to maintaining their independence, social outlets, health, hobbies and interests.

Gently encourage your parents to keep an open mind about senior living – and let them know modern senior living has transformed uncomfortable, clinical nursing homes and retirement communities into active, vibrant places to live. If you can, persuade them to visit and tour a senior living community to see for themselves what the lifestyle holds for them.


Stay calm, stick to the facts and be honest about how you feel. When sharing your concerns and observations, tact is obviously very important – but not at the expense of withholding the truth. Make it clear that you’re thinking about both the immediate and distant future, and that you want them to keep enjoying life in the same way they do now. They might be upset at first, but knowing that your concern is born out of genuine care can make a difference.


The longer you wait, the harder it is to start the conversation around senior living. If you wait until a health event or other issue makes an immediate move necessary, that means less time to research, reflect and decide what’s best for them. Naturally, the discussions you’ll have then will be more urgent, less nuanced and less likely to lead your loved one to the right place for them. It seems simple, but it can’t be overstated – don’t put off talking about senior living and care.


We’ve aided seniors and their families in their search for senior living for decades. Lean on us as a resource in your decision-making process. Contact us online for more information or call 815-233-5129 to connect with member of our team today.