Support Your Loved One’s Transition to a Nursing Home

The first steps to help them through it

It’s never easy sitting down with a parent and explaining that they need to transition into a nursing home. It’s an emotionally draining experience for you, and certainly for your loved one. Maybe they’ll be angry with you, or depressed. Maybe you’ll feel guilty. And while I’ve talked previously about the benefits of a home—there’s an emotional aspect of this transition that needs to be addressed.

There is a way to help your loved ones learn to embrace the next stage of their life. And it starts with these three things to help you become their pillar of support:

And if they won’t talk, ask questions

There’s bound to be negative remarks—but what is it about this transition that is really causing your parent’s pain? Or maybe they don’t want to “be a burden” and are keeping quiet about their feelings.

It’s important to talk through any concerns. Chances are, your loved one is feeling a loss of control and independence. Even if they’re not forthright with their feelings, try saying something like, “This is a lot of change, so I know it may be really hard. Is there anything scaring you or making you feel anxious? I can help.”

For so many people during a difficult time, it’s hard to express emotions. Asking questions can help them really articulate what they’re feeling—and help you to work with them through their pain.

Practice empathy

No matter how your parents respond to you, acknowledge it. “It sounds like this is really scary for you. It is for me too. We can work on this together.” Or, “I know things are overwhelming and feel out of control. I’m here to support you.” Avoid being dismissive of their concerns. Telling them to “cheer up” or saying “it’s not so bad” will diminish their feelings.

Everyone wants to feel their pain is understood and validated. Show them that you get it.

Don’t parent your parent

It might feel like time to take control—but don’t abruptly flip the parent-child roles. There is already so much change happening, it’s so important for you to give control back to your parents whenever possible. Remember, you’re caring for them, not parenting them.

Life in a nursing home is different, but it’s not the end. There’s more a nursing home can offer to your loved one than just a place of constant care. We firmly believe a nursing home should be a home, and we do everything we can to make it feel that way. The best nursing homes train their staff not only to care medically, but to care through empathy and support for both you and your parents. The transition may be a difficult one—but it’s the right one.