Discussing care options with older adults

A caregiver helps a senior fill out paperwork

There are many topics to consider when talking to older adults about receiving care. Having the talk at the right time plays an important role. One major subject is if the person you care for wants to stay at home or wants to move to a residential care setting.

Home and residential options

Services for adults who stay at home include emergency response pendants, home care and adult day care. Residential care options include assisted living, nursing homes and continuing care retirement communities. Before talking about these options, you can learn more about each through the U.S. Administration on Aging’s Eldercare Locator., opens new window

Before you discuss options

Communicating with older adults about their care needs can be hard, but being ready for the talk may help make it easier. Before the talk, present your concerns to other friends or family who are close to the situation. This may give you another way to look at your loved one’s needs and help create a caregiving team. Before talking about care options, consider the following:

  • Is there a setting where you and your loved one are more comfortable?
  • Is there a time of day when it’s easier to talk? For example, evenings may not be a good time because your loved one may be tired.
  • Is there one person (or people) your elder can talk with easier? Would a one-on-one or group discussion be a better idea?

While you discuss options

During the talk, be open and honest about your concerns, but let the person know how his or her continued comfort and safety are what you care about. Also be aware of your own emotions and any triggers that may cause you to react negatively. The person being cared for will probably have feelings about the situation. It’s likely that your loved one has been living without the need for help for many years and may not want help. Involve the person in the talk as much as you can; the key is for everyone to feel they are being heard.

When the discussion doesn’t go as planned

Be ready if things don’t go as planned. Your loved one may not want any help, or you may have to compromise (instead of hiring a home care attendant, your loved one may only agree to wear an emergency response pendant). It’s possible that you’ll have to talk about the issue again. If you’re facing a lot of resistance, consider asking for help from a doctor or geriatric care manager. Caregiver-related websites or support groups also may provide guidance and suggest ways for you to cope.