Skip to content

Talking to senior relatives

The Reminder is making its archives back to 2003 available on our website. Please note that, due to technical limitations, archive articles are presented without the usual formatting. By 2011, Canada will have more than 1.

The Reminder is making its archives back to 2003 available on our website. Please note that, due to technical limitations, archive articles are presented without the usual formatting.

By 2011, Canada will have more than 1.3 million citizens over the age of 80. As Canada's aging population continues to grow, many families are facing the 'sandwich situation,' having to care both for aging relatives and for young children. Talking to senior relatives about housing can be difficult for both families and seniors. To provide a start point for this discussion, The Care Guide has issued its Top Ten Tips for managing the housing discussion. "For seniors and their families, this discussion often comes after some kind of incident," says Derek Mercey, vice president, The Care Guide. "Family members often experience feelings of guilt, anger and sadness, while their senior relative may experience loss of autonomy, loss of privacy and feelings of helplessness. How the discussion is handled can make a huge difference to the outcome." The top ten things families should consider when discussing a change in housing arrangements for a senior relative are: 1. Focus on the senior's comfort and not the impact on the family. 2. Keep emotion out of the process as much as possible. Do your research and be prepared; stick to facts and practicalities. 3. Bring a trusted, objective third-party into the discussion to moderate, such as a health care professional, a religious figure or a community care case worker. 4. Don't hold the conversation after some kind of an 'incident' as emotions tend to be high. Choose an appropriate time and a neutral location. 5. Designate one family member as the 'point person' for the discussions and for follow-up action that needs to be taken. Select someone who has a strong, stable relationship with the person in question. 6. Keep in mind that this is a frightening and disorienting experience for many seniors. Be clear on your objectives, be patient and do your best not to argue or make justifications. Take time outs if necessary. 7. Develop a personal list of wants and needs on both sides so that the best housing option fit can be analyzed. Make a list of all possible outcomes and compare the pros and cons of each. 8. Do a cost analysis and research two or three residences you feel may best suit your senior relative's needs that are within the budget. 9. Consider suggesting short-term, overnight trial-stays at residences of interest as a way to "test the waters". 10. Focus on the quality of your future relationship with your senior relative. Remind them that you have their best interest at heart.