DEAR HARRIETTE: My mother has been declining in health over the past year, and she just spent several weeks in the hospital. She is coming home, but my siblings and I are worried that she shouldn't be on her own anymore. We have started to look into assisted living facilities, but when we mentioned it to our mother, she got upset. How should we begin the conversation about the future? None of us is able to take her to our homes. Either we work all the time, or we don't have the right kind of space. She will soon need nursing care around the clock, and we can't afford that at home. -- Next Steps, Grand Rapids, Michigan
DEAR NEXT STEPS: Transitioning to the next phase of life, particularly for an elder who is not well, can be extremely difficult. Ease into the conversation. Let your mother get acclimated to her own home first. If possible, you and your siblings should spend more time with her so you can see for yourself what she can do on her own and what she cannot. Get her one of those alert necklaces that connects to 911, so that if she has an emergency, she can immediately receive help.
Start talking to her about the future. Ask her what she would like to do when she is no longer physically able to live on her own. Listen to her thoughts. If she says she wants to live with one of you, explain your circumstances clearly and with compassion. Make sure your mother knows how much you love her and that if she moves into an assisted-living facility, you will not abandon her. You want what's best for her.