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Ask the expert: When you feel you are a betrayer

Ask the expert: When you feel you are a betrayer


Emotions run very high during the transition from home to long-term care or memory care facilities. How do you broach the topic when you are wracked with guilt, and your mom bluntly refuses?


Question: My mother finally needs to move to a long-term care home, but she won’t go. We’ve talked and talked. It’s killing me.

I know how hard it must be for her to give up her home with all its memories, but we just can’t look after her anymore, not even with part-time care. How does anyone get someone to move to a nursing home? It feels so mean.

Answer: Of all the milestones involved in a caregiving relationship, a transition to long-term care residence is one of the most painful and difficult ones.

You’re absolutely right in saying putting your mom into a nursing home feels “mean.” It’s not quite natural, is it?

Think about this, though. Moms take care of us during our entire lives from infancy to adulthood. If you were to ask your mom what type of care she would give her children, she wouldn’t hesitate in saying she would want only the best care there is for you.

Now flip that around. You and family, recognizing that there are limitations to the care you can give her, would only want the best care possible for her, right? As convoluted as the rationale may initially be, by placing your mom in a nursing home, where she is surrounded by a professional, caring medical and support staff tending to her needs, you are providing nothing but the best for her.

Now, does that make you feel less guilty? Maybe not. The revelation that you are doing her a favor in the long run will come soon enough.

However, there are things you can do to make thinking about a nursing home a little less distressing. Here are a few suggestions:

Ask your mom why she is hesitant to go to a nursing home.

The answer may surprise you. Maybe she thinks she’ll be a financial burden on the family. Maybe she’s worried about losing her independence. Is she afraid that her family won’t visit? Is she concerned she won’t make new friends?

These aren’t easy conversations but be as frank and reassuring as possible. Now is not the time to sugarcoat emotions. Once you get to the root(s) of the problem(s), talk about these fears with the long-term care staff so they can accommodate her worries.

There are myriad nursing-home options.

Research the places that interest you and their services and programs. Read the reviews and, if possible, speak to family members of residents. You’ll feel more at ease if you know everything about the facility you are considering. Whenever it’s feasible, involve your mom in the decision-making process and seek her feedback regularly. Look at brochures or videos together, tour the home with her, talk to staff and residents there together.

Nursing homes have undergone major changes since your mom’s day.

Point out the advantages of living in a residence (yes, they do exist). Facilities have 24-hour care, trained medical staff, activities and programs offered regularly, a strong sense of community between the residents and staff, socialization opportunities, planned outings and celebrations, etc.

Start a family memory project together such as a memory box, photo album or a memory quilt.

Make a promise that you’ll continue working on the project once she moves in. Not only will the project give her something to look forward to (your visits) but she’ll be able to display the family-themed finished product in her room and be a reminder of your love.

Leaving the home she’s known for years can be a shock.

There will be a mourning period. Plan ahead (again, involve her in the process) in personalizing her room at the nursing home. Pick out objects with emotional value such as family pictures, blankets, her favorite chair (check with the home to see if you’re able to bring furniture) or other nostalgic reminders. If the home allows you to do so, go in before your mom’s move and personalize her living space. It will be a nice homecoming of sorts for her.

One of the top fears of someone moving into a residential home is that they’ll lose contact with their loved ones.

Make sure your mom knows that you and the rest of the family will visit, call, and write regularly. Once she’s moved in, one strategy is to make plans for the next visit while you’re there. It’ll give your mom a sense of peace and it will give her something to look forward to.

Throughout the transition process, expect some, or many, bumps in the road. Your mom may act angry, curse and yell or not even speak to you all. This is completely normal. I can’t say how long it will take for your mom to fully get comfortable with her living arrangements. It can take weeks or up to months. Just hang in there and don’t rush her. She is also going through her own cycle of emotions.

With time, and as you see your mom begin to settle into her new surroundings, then your own guilty feelings will dissipate.

About the author

Romina Oliverio

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