The Cottages Blog

Tips for Having "The Talk" with Mom About Assisted Living

Posted by Susan Abercrombie on Feb 10, 2016 9:00:00 AM


As an outside observer, often times, it is the child who first notices changes in Mom that signal it may be time for her to move to an assisted living community. Sometimes, Mom will come to this conclusion on her own, but if she has not approached the subject with you yet, just knowing that you need to have this talk with her can make you feel anxious and unsure. How will she react? How should you bring it up? Knowing what to say and how to begin can be the most difficult part of the entire conversation. So here are a few tips to help you talk with Mom about moving to an assisted living community.

If Possible, Open the Lines of Communication Early

It’s possible that Mom is not yet at the point where she needs to move. If you can, begin to lay the groundwork for this talk early. Talk to her about assisted living before it’s necessary, so that when the time comes to have the actual “talk”, she will be more open to and ready for the idea. This is a hard conversation. Starting it early will help both of you to look at the subject more practically. It gives you more time to plan. She can help you plan a hypothetical move, and you can research all of her possible options together, should she ever need to move. Granted, you don’t always have the option of talking about this topic early. Often times, this subject is only broached once moving Mom becomes an immediate necessity.

Do the Research for Her

Chances are, you are the one who has started this discussion, but even if Mom is the one who is initially interested in moving to an assisted living community, before you talk with her, get online, call around, ask questions. Have as much information available as you can find when you sit down and talk to her about all of her options. She is going to need advice, and you are both going to have lots of questions.

Research different communities in your area. Consider what Mom needs and wants as far as pricing, floor plans, amenities, and dining options. Refer to our Move-In Checklist for ideas on what items Mom will want to have with her once she moves into an assisted living community. You can find prices and ratings for senior communities at Learn about financial assistance, your payment options, and more here. Consider talking to an expert, like a Senior Real Estate Specialist in your area or a lawyer who specializes in elder care law. Both of you will feel so much better about the conversation if you come to the table with answers and several options.

Schedule a Visit to a Nearby Community

Find a nearby assisted living community and schedule a visit for Mom. A tour of the community will give her a chance to get acquainted with the people and with the type of place that she may be moving into soon. Growing accustomed to the atmosphere can help put her more at ease with the idea of such a life-changing decision. While touring the community, know what to look for and the right questions to ask.

Know what questions to ask Mom as well. Before she visits the assisted living community, talk to her about the activities of daily living with which she needs help now. Is she struggling with cooking, cleaning, dressing, mobility? What parts of her daily life have gradually gotten more difficult recently? When you are at the assisted living community, take note of the specific amenities that can help her with these troublesome tasks. Make sure to point each amenity out to her.

Take Your Time

This discussion will not be a short one. This is a huge life change. Whether or not she wants to move, Mom is going to miss her old home. It is natural for her to grieve the loss of an old part of her life. You both have a lot to consider, financially, physically, and emotionally. Once you do your research, you will need to come to several decisions. Where will Mom live? When will she move? What items should she take with her? Learn more about downsizing. It is possible for this discussion to go from a terrifying, awkward one to a fun talk. Finding and moving to a new home is stressful, yes, but it is also an adventure, and you can help Mom find the excitement in this new adventure.

If this move is entirely your idea and not hers, take your time bringing it up. Approach the topic gingerly but with the proper information. Don’t make her feel rushed. Even if the move is very necessary, this is not a decision that can be rushed. If you need to, mention the subject only in passing at first. Give Mom some time to think about it on her own for a while. She may get used to the idea and, she may be the one who comes to you for the second conversation. Enlisting the help of Mom’s doctor can also be helpful. Make an appointment for her, and let her doctor help you explain why he or she agrees that it is time for Mom to make the move.

If Mom says no more than once, it’s ok for you to back off for a bit. There’s no harm in approaching the subject a little later. She may show interest after a few days without pressure from you. The next time the topic is up for discussion, make it clear to her that you can’t make such a big decision about her life without her input or her willingness to go along with it. Although the move may be necessary, and you may have to do some persuading, it should ultimately feel like her decision. It is always easier to make this kind of transition when we are given the means and the opportunity to make our own decisions.

Remember that Mom is a person, just as you are, who should be allowed to have input on her life. Remember that once upon a time, she took care of all of your needs. She may need some extra help doing things on her own now, and she may agree with you about that assessment, but having a talk like this with her child can make her feel vulnerable and defensive. Start the conversation by telling her that you love her, and then continue from there.


Caregiver's Field Guide to Assisted Living






Topics: Downsizing for Seniors, Senior Housing, Senior Care Resources

Susan Abercrombie

Written by: Susan Abercrombie

Susan has 32 years of nursing experience caring for seniors in assisted living and doctors’ offices. She now manages two Cottage communities in Alabama. Susan and her husband of 30 years, Tim, have two dogs, Sydney and Macy.