There are few decisions more difficult than the decision to place Mom or Dad in a nursing home. It can be traumatic for both the parents and the family members. To cope with the emotions of the nursing home decision, you must have an understanding of your parents’ emotions, as well as your own. Then seek the support and counseling that both sides often need.
Mom’s and Dad’s Emotions
In moving to a nursing home, seniors experience an overwhelming range of emotions, including a sense of grief and loss; anger and frustration; and betrayal and abandonment. To help Mom or Dad cope, you must first understand these emotions.
Seniors experience grief and loss because they are not only leaving their lifelong home, but they are also leaving friends, their neighbors, and a church community. Unless their facility allows them to bring their family pet, they are leaving a beloved companion behind. Ultimately, Mom and Dad are leaving the life they once knew. They may even feel that the move signals the end of life.
To support them, emphasize that their links to the past will continue. Encourage them to bring to the nursing facility items that create a sense of home. But remember that even the process of selecting items may be heart-wrenching, since the nursing home will not accommodate their huge, memory-filled armoire.
Seniors also experience anger and frustration, two emotions that often mask an array of other emotions. They often direct their anger at their adult children because they feel betrayed and abandoned. They may also direct their anger at the nursing home staff.
The Family’s Emotions
As a family member, you may also experience feelings of loss, guilt, and helplessness – feelings that make it even more difficult for you to comfort Mom and Dad. Even if you are not selling the family home, you are losing your home as you once knew it. You too may feel that the move signals the end of your parent’s lives.
You may also experience profound guilt and a nagging sense that perhaps your parents should be living with you. If so, it is crucial to revisit the medical reasons why the move is necessary.
If you have been the primary caregiver, you may grieve the loss of your caregiver role. However, your role as care provider is not limited to physical caregiving. Your regular visits and loving expressions of support are vital to Mom’s or Dad’s emotional well-being and sense of purpose.
Working through all of these emotions may require counsel from eldercare experts, clergy, social workers, and other trusted friends and family. Support groups for caregivers and children of aging parents can help.
Caregiver support groups in Buxmont include Abington Memorial Hospital (215.481.3160) or Abington Family Support Group which meets on the second Thursday of each month, beginning at 7:30 p.m. at Abington Presbyterian Church, 1082 Old York Road in Abington, PA 19001-4593. For more information about this group you can contact NAMI Montgomery County at 215-361-7784 or email@example.com. Other churches and community service organizations also offer groups.
The nursing home decision is a difficult one. Although many seniors are eventually happier once they have settled in, the process is a difficult one. As the old saying says, there are times when “the only way ‘out’…is ‘through.’” This is a life transition that you must walk through together, leaning on one another …Mom leaning on you more.
In the process, you may both need to lean on those who can help you move on from the past — and find the joy in the future.