The question is delicate, to say the least. But it arises every day. How do I talk to my parents about moving from their longtime home into a retirement community? What do I say? How do I explore the options? The choice depends on a frank and open assessment between child and parent. With the right knowledge and a loving, supportive approach, the experience can actually be pleasant for everyone involved.

When Lynn Ann Bartholomew decided to approach her parents about moving to a retirement community, she wasn’t worried about (heir reaction. She had talked to her parents about the move long before she really needed to. She had already visited several Dallas retirement communities on her own to gather comprehensive information, And. she used a rationale that made sense. She told her parents. David and Gloria Phillips, that she wanted them to be closer to her so they could enjoy each others company more often. They had spent too many years commuting back and forth from East Texas where Bartholomew lives to her parents’ home in Virginia. Dallas seemed like a great solution since Bartholomew offices here and so much of their family fives in the Dallas area. After visiting several communities and weighing the pros and cons of giving up their longtime home, the Phillips decided to leave Virginia for retirement living in Dallas-a move to which they have adjusted quite well.

Lynn did it right. Most people are worried they will do it wrong. That’s because they usually wail too long, and when the subject finally does come up. the conversation seems forced. And it doesn’t just seem forced, it is forced. But no matter how prepared a family might be, the transition is never an easy one. The Phillips had lived in Dallas in the early 60s before making Virginia their home, and they had visited their daughter many limes, so they were familiar with Texas. They wanted to be near their family, and they were ready to give up the difficult tasks of home maintenance. daily cooking, and dealing with the long, bitter winters in Virginia. Even so. they were still sad to leave their old life behind.

“It was hard to leave our friends and everything we had grown so accustomed to in Virginia, but there comes a lime for everything, and this was our lime to move,” Gloria Phillips says.

Timing is everything. And choosing the right time to talk often falls more to the adult child than the parent. Looking for signs of readiness in their parents and helping Mom and Dad evaluate their needs is a responsibility baby boomers might like to delay, but which they cannot avoid. Baby boomers are in the middle of a major role reversal. After a lifetime of turning to their parents l’or advice, they are quickly becoming the source of guidance for their senior parents.

Helping a parent make this move isn’t easy-from bringing up the subject and shopping for a place to live, to helping them pack and move. A survey From the American Association of Retired Persons indicates that two in three older parents haven’t talked with their boomer-aged children about retirement living issues. (There’s that delay.} Industry experts warn that wailing too long can make the decision even more difficult. The onset of dementia or other serious health problems can cause the issue to be strained, even contentious. The topic is best approached in one of two ways. Bring up the issue long before it’s necessary while parents are still fully independent, aware of their future needs, and can assist in the decision-making. Or. sit back and wait for signs that indicate it’s time for parents to move, and hope that they too are ready for someone to step in and help.

“I reassured my parents that if this doesn’t work out, we could try something else,” Bartholomew says. “It’s important to let your parents know that nothing is permanent-that you’re on their side.”


Since everyone ages differently and at ’ various rates, a person’s year-count isn’t really a factor in determining when to move to a retirement community. One man’s 72 | years may be another man’s 92. One of the best ways to gauge a senior’s readiness to move to a retirement community is to simply watch his living habits over the course of a few months to a year to see how they change.

“Check to see if they’ve become weakened.” says Phyllis McNeil, R.N., Case Manager for ActivCare on Turtle Creek, a residential Alzheimer’s care facility. “Maybe they’re not eating like they should or their home is disorganized and they don’t seem to | notice. Then you should intervene.”

Or. the issue could be as simple as safety. says Marsha Nunley, a board certified physician in internal medicine and geriatrics for Medical Edge Corp. The No. I concern-no matter what the senior’s age or medical status-is their safety, she says.

“Are they safe where they live.” she says. ’’ “Have they had a fall resulting in an injury? Has their home environment become too much for them to handle on their own? If they can’t remember whether or not they turned off the stove or if they locked their door at night, it’s time to look into other living plions. Memory loss that affects their safely is a key issue.”

Once physical problems become apparent. Dr. Nunley suggests finding a geriatric physician to help assess a senior’s readiness to move to a retirement community. Because there are so many types of retirement facilities-from independent and assisted living to nursing and Alzheimer’s care-it’s best to get expert advice on what type of care a senior needs and to recommend medication, if necessary. A geriatric physician can also assist a senior with overcoming his fears about retirement community living. Often, the one thing keeping seniors away from a retirement community is their fear of the unknown and the significant difficulty they have in adapting to change. Nunley says.

“The decision is usually so obvious to the children, but consider that your Mom or Dad has lived in the same house for 50 years and has to move to a new place, only taking a few of their lifetime possessions,” Dr. Nunley says. “It’s a scary thought. But more than that, it’s fear of loss of control. They are afraid that they will lose the control they have over daily tasks such as eating when they want, sleeping when they want, and being able to come and go as they please. They need to understand that not all retirement communities are the same. There are different levels of care, and you (the children) can help them find the right fit.”


Once the assessment has been made that it is lime to make the move, the typical initial reaction is to start looking for a retirement community. While shopping around is important, going directly to this stage is omitting an important step. More crucial is to openly discuss the issue. Often, says Dottie Johnson. Director of Admissions at Presbyterian Village North, an adult child’s first reaction is to jump in and take control. Instead, he should remember that even though things have changed, he is still the child and should respect his parents’ wishes. Hang back and wait to hear what parents have to say. Most likely, seniors have given their living situation much thought and have their own ideas and wishes about where they’ll spend the rest of their years.

“Many times, children don’t know what really appeals to their parents about retirement living,” Johnson says. “They only think they do and are usually quite surprised when they learn what their parents really want. A child may think their parents will want the expensive two-story apartment overlooking the lake, when actually, they would prefer a small unit near the dining room and all of the activities.”

Using an example of a friend who successfully made the move to a retirement community is another good idea. Often. seniors have visited friends who live in retirement facilities and know what they want and don’t want based on what they’ve seen.

Louise Stokes, Director of Sales and Marketing at The Forum ai Park Lane, says one of the best ways to have the conversation is to emphasize all of the advantages of retirement community living, rather than discussing what they will have to leave behind. Often, seniors who live at home are isolated and meal preparation takes too much effort. Their neighborhood has become much younger, and they no longer know their neighbors. Driving has become dangerous and the exhausting day-to-day task necessary to maintain their home keeps the away from social activities they enjoy.

most every type of retirement community, seniors can relax and have someone else drive them to their favorite places and clean and cook for them, making meal time enjoyable again. Entertainment is right at their doorsteps, and they have an abundance of opportunity to meet new friends and try new activities.

“A retirement community gives seniors a chance to live in a real neighborhood again,” Stokes says.

Rosemary Patton-Smith, Regional Marketing Director for Spectrum Properties, LC, says that when having the initial conversation, children should remind their parents that they have worked for so many years in their careers and on their homes. They deserve a break to sit back and enjoy life, which is what retirement is all about. Giving up the responsibilities of home ownership can be a relief, she says, and children must remind their parents that they deserve the carefree lifestyle retirement living offers.

The most important thing to remember when having the initial conversation, Johnson says, is to keep a parent’s wants and desires in mind. Don’t push them or try to sell them on anything.

“Approach the topic before you have to if at all possible.” Johnson says. “You can’t predict the future, so it’s a good idea to talk about it while you can bom easily and rationally exchange ideas. When you’re having this conversation, you’ll probably find yourself in a role you never imagined you’d be in-when the child seems to turn into the parent. But if you work with your parents. rather than against them, they’re usually willing to accept your suggestions.”


Once Bartholomew received the go-ahead from her parents to shop different Dallas retirement communities for them, she took on the role of researcher, gathering facts to present to her parents. She later visited the communities with her parents, and they compared notes. The final decision was made by Bartholomew’s parents-a move industry experts applaud. An important step to retirement living is shopping around. No two communities are alike, and often they accommodate specific needs. Children should make sure their parents are in the right community in accordance with their medical needs, financial status, and lifestyle.

Several resources are available to help locate retirement communities. A starting place is for children to seek out communities that are on their way to work or near their home to make visiting more convenient. Look for printed resources and guides that list a variety of communities and their amenities. Churches, local senior citizen organizations, and senior activity centers are also good references. A simple research method is the Internet. Most retirement communities have their own web sites which include everything from directions and costs to a list of activities and apartment floorplans. From there, make appointments tor tour at a variety of communities. Visit several times and even pop in unannounced to gain a full perspective.

“Be sure to notice if the assisted living community you are considering is a secure, pleasant setting where you, your parent, or loved one can enjoy an independent lifestyle along with the availability of supportive services to make life a bit easier-either now or in the future,” says Courtney McLaughlin. Director of Marketing and Community Relations at the Atria Asssited Living Community in Richardson.

Visiting several communities allows for a better sense of how much amenities cost and helps in the price comparison process. Find out if there are any hidden or extra costs and if all amenities and meals are included in the rent or priced separately. Often, price plays a major role in the selection process. Possibly, seniors will have their hearts set on a particular community that just isn’t in their budget. This is a good time for the child to offer a back-up plan in case wailing lists or price affect the decision.

When visiting the communities, make plans to stay awhile, Have lunch to test the food and dining facility atmosphere and take a tour. Measure the apartments to see how well furniture from home will fit. Visit with the residents. They are the best source of information. Take pan in activities or at least review a list of scheduled activities. Make sure there is adequate staffing and that RNs are on duty at all times. To avoid future moves, consider communities that offer a range of care from independent and assisted living to nursing and Alzheimer’s care in case needs change.

Before the shopping trip, prepare a list of questions. A few to ask include:

Do you take Medicaid or is the facility private pay?

Is there a written plan of care for each , resident?

Do you have an Alzheimer’s unit and adequate screening?

Is this facility licensed by the state?

What types of activities are planned, and how often can my parents participate?

Can you accommodate my parents’ dietary needs?

What type of religious activities do you offer?

How often does the rental rate increase?

How often are assessments revised to keep up with the level of care?

What amenities must we pay out of pocket that are not included in the monthly rent?

Do you offer a security guard after hours?

What is the staff turnover percentage?

Do you provide guest rooms for out-of-town guests?

Is there a medical director on staff?

■ What happens if my parents become menially or physically incapacitated? How do you handle this?

“One of the best questions to ask is, ’What happens when my patents’ money runs ou!,’” Johnson says. “With more people living longer, savings aren’t going as far as they used to. Find oui what each facility’s policy is and plan well. It helps to know that there is a plan in place no matter what happens.”

Once the questions have been asked of the retirement community’s staff, the next questions to ask are of the parents. First and foremost, find out what is important to them.

“Let your parents voice their thoughts and opinions on each place you visit.” Johnson says. “Be patient. You may have to come back several times to check out a place before they’re ready to commit and move, and that’s fine. Just give them time to adjust.”


Once a retirement community has finally been selected and the move is complete, industry experts recommend children visit their parents often to make sure they are adjusting well to their new environment. Dr. Nunley stresses that it is particularly important to monitor their health during the adjustment period, since this is a time when otherwise healthy seniors suddenly fall ill.

“If they feel pushed into something, they can easily fall into a depression,” she says, ’The move can then become a physiological thing. The mind and body work together, so when a person’s environment changes and they don’t adapt well and gel depressed, they can become quite ill.”

Dr. Nunley warns that although seniors may appear perfectly healthy, they have poor health reserves. Any illness can become quite severe. Without the strength to light the illness, seniors can get sicker than most. Severe stress and mental anguish can easily lead to physical problems. Dr. Nunley says, so adult children should make sure their parents are becoming acclimated to their new living situation and are monitored by a physician during the initial stages.

Pat ton-Smith says even though senior parents may reassure their children that they are happy about the move, children need to let their parents know they will remain supportive of their needs and wants.

“If you have a gut reeling that the place you or they chose is wrong or not safe, then go with your gut feeling,” she says. “Make an informed, educated decision and keep the lines of communication open. Once seniors are in the right place for them and feel safe and have made friends, everyone will feel relieved.”



972-447-0038 214-559-6161

An upscale residential Alzheimer’s care community in Turtle Creek and Piano.



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Institute for Motion Picture and Television Studies at Las Colinas


Kamp: Hollywood will introduce youngsters and teenagers to fun workshops in film/video production creation and will leave the 10-day camp with a video short that they created themselves!



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Lakehill provides a traditional preparatory school experience which emphasizes all curricular areas for a well-rounded education. Required courses. Electivives designed to maximize intellectual and aesthetic experience.



Old-fashioned summer tun. Arts arid crafts, swimming, cooking, games, and field trips combined with a formal dining room and etiquette tor first- through sixth-graders.


956-423-6006. ext. 252

The Marine Military Academy is a private college preparatory, all male boarding school based on the traditions of the United States Marine Corps.



Summer day camp featuring swimming, arts & crafts, music, game room, and more. Weekly themes provide opportunity for learning and fun Ages 3-11. Full childcare hours available.


972-239-8011, ext. 133

June 5 – August 16. One- to two-week classes from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m Extended Day 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Parish on a Summer Day offers a challenging and enriching experience tor ages 3 through sixth grade.



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Saint Alcuin offers a wide variety ol summer programs and classes that provide discovery, adventure, excitement, and education. Join us fora summer full of fun!



A full day program for three year olds through eighth grade in a positive, caring environment using multisensory teaching techniques to reach all types of learners.


Southern Methodist University 21-1-758-7245

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Three fun-filled summer workshops will introduce young explorers to the traditions and cul-tures of Asia. The Crow Collection is located in the Dallas Arts District at 2010 Flora Street.



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[email protected]

A comprehensive online resource connecting parents to private schools and professional specialists in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex.



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