Ask the Expert- When Dad is Resistant About Assisted Living

Q: I have a 75 year old father who lives alone in his home. He doesn’t have an in-home caregiver, but has lots of friends and family who check in on him regularly. Since he served during the Vietnam War, he has had flashbacks that still affect him and keep him up at night. He suffered at least one stroke in the last 5 years, has trouble walking, seeing, and hearing things, left the stove on recently and sometimes forgets to take his medication.
I think he would do so much better if he moved to an assisted living community. Plus I wouldn’t worry as much knowing that he had appropriate care and supervision. The problem is he’s resistant to the thought of this change. How do I talk to him?


A: The decision to help your father move out of his current home is a complex one — both emotionally and practically.
If he is showing signs that living alone is a strain, it may be time for a talk. Before having the talk, be prepared for the psychological roadblocks you’re likely to hit when you broach the subject. The following tips will help make the conversation more productive, and maybe even pleasant:


  • Understand that your father’s home represents control. You’re asking your father to let go of control at a time when age itself may be making him feel he’s losing control over so much else — fundamentals like mobility, vision, hearing, his very ability to navigate the world.
  • Look at housing from his point of view. Visit the assisted living facility that you’d consider for your father. Imagine you were in his shoes on your way in the door. Think about how he may feel in making this place his home.
  • Be tactful and gentle. Broach the subject of where to live in a neutral way and you may find that your father harbors the same fears for current and future safety and security that you do. Find out what your father fears most about moving and about staying before launching into your own worries and what you think ought to be done
  • Remind yourself that he may come around to the idea. Attitudes change, and the most resistant older adults sometimes wind up as the happiest retirement community residents if they eventually realize they need help. But if he doesn’t wind up moving when you think he should, you can still support him by making his housing situation as safe and comfortable as possible.
  • Keep in mind that in the end, it’s his decision, not yours — and communicate that thought to him. As long as he’s mentally competent, acknowledging that he’s in charge of his own life will make the process of helping him navigate the housing maze more positive and productive for all involved.

If, on the other hand, your father has a full life, a close neighborhood and community connections, and seems to be thriving, it’s worth exploring as many in-home care options as possible before raising stress levels by pressing a move from a beloved home. We here at The Fairfax and Fredericksburg Elder Law Firms of Evan H. Farr, P.C. hope you and your father talk and listen to one another and come to a resolution that works best for his happiness and well-being, and your concerns about his living alone and being able to take care of himself.
Whether the outcome is in-home care or assisted living, we suggest that you plan ahead in the event nursing home care is needed in the future. Life Care Planning and Medicaid Asset Protection is the process of protecting assets from having to be spent down in connection with entry into a nursing home, while also helping ensure that you or your loved one get the best possible care and maintain the highest possible quality of life, whether at home, in an assisted living facility, or in a nursing home.
The Fairfax and Fredericksburg Elder Law Firms of Evan H. Farr, P.C. has also recommended to clients like your father that he may be eligible for the Veterans Aid and Attendance Benefit, but may also need Medicaid for nursing home care in the future. To be eligible for the Veterans Aid and Attendance Benefit, beneficiaries must be at least 65 years old (or totally disabled), veterans or married to veterans who served during a wartime period, and must have been not dishonorably discharged. Applicants must also need help with at least one activity of daily living: eating, walking, dressing, bathing, using the toilet, or adjusting prosthetic devices. Those who live in nursing homes or require in-home care, or are blind, may also be eligible. Please call 703-691-1888 to make an appointment for a consultation.


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About Evan H Farr, CELA, CAP

Evan H. Farr is a 4-time Best-Selling author in the field of Elder Law and Estate Planning. In addition to being one of approximately 500 Certified Elder Law Attorneys in the Country, Evan is one of approximately 100 members of the Council of Advanced Practitioners of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys and is a Charter Member of the Academy of Special Needs Planners.

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