When caring for your parents at home becomes dangerous or nearly impossible, it’s absolutely necessary to move them to a place where they can get the care they need. Even if this is the best decision for their health and for yours, the guilt and sadness can still be overwhelming. It takes time, but there are ways you can help yourself accept the decision.
Reasons for guilt and the reality behind them
Here are some reasons and some example scenarios why caregivers feel guilty about moving their senior to assisted living.
1. You’ve failed in your duty to care for them
- I promised Mom I’d always take care of her.
- Dad asked me to never abandon him.
- I told mom she would never have to leave her house.
You haven’t failed. Moving someone to assisted living doesn’t mean that you’ve failed to take care of them. It means you’re making a smart decision to get them the level of care they need.
You still spend as much time with them as you can, talk frequently with the staff, and manage their overall care. You are taking good care of your older adult and you certainly haven’t abandoned them.
2. You’re not as good a caregiver as you should be
- My friend Sarah takes care of her Mom at home. I should have been able to keep doing it too.
- My brother thinks I’m being lazy and just don’t want to take care of Dad at home anymore.
- My husband’s daughter (from a previous marriage) told me that she’s angry that I’m dumping her dad in a home.
You are a great caregiver. Everyone’s situation is different, so it’s not fair to compare yourself to others. It’s also important not to pay too much attention to people who don’t help and don’t understand the real situation.
Your parent may have more serious health conditions or need a much higher level of care than is possible for you to provide. If your health is suffering or if someone could get injured, it’s time to make a change.
Moving your older adult protects both of your health and safety and allows them to get the care they need. Besides, if you don’t protect your own health, you surely won’t be able to keep caring for them.
Remember, you made this decision because their health and safety was in danger. Making a change is what had to be done to prevent something terrible from happening.
Rather than feeling guilty, it is best to remember the reasons you chose senior living for your parents in the first place. Perhaps it was because you were concerned about their isolation, their safety, or simply because you couldn’t be the caregiver all the time. Maybe your parents were simply unwilling or unable to accept help in their home. Maybe they weren’t eating right, or they were falling too often. Deep inside, you know that senior living is the best option for your parent.
Whatever the case, it’s doubtful that your parents’ need for supportive care is a result of something you did or didn’t do.
Obviously, all of this becomes more challenging when your parents are the ones trying to make you feel guilty about the senior living move. If that’s the case, remember that no one controls your feelings but you.
With that in mind, consider why your parents are trying to place a guilt trip on you. Though they may be lashing out at you, the underlying issue is often sadness about their own life situation. As we age, we must deal with a series of ‘losses’ or ‘changes’ to our lives. The loss of a spouse, the loss of driving privileges, the loss of being able to take care of ourselves are all major life changes. Moving to an assisted living facility is a major life change.
Chances are mom or dad will not immediately agree that moving to assisted living is a good idea. They may think they can still ‘manage’ just fine. but their family knows they can’t. But, often the older adult is angry that their family is moving them.
As the daughter or son of a parent who need to move into senior living, it is up to you to stay positive, even if mom or dad are angry. Perhaps you can work with facility and have your parent ‘try’ senior living for a few months. Most often, mom or dad will eventually see that the move is really a good idea. And they will come to enjoy their ‘new life’ in senior living. They will likely agree that it’s not as bad as they feared.