Ask Miriam – July 2022
I’m 59 years old and recently moved my mother into a nursing home. She has had Alzheimer’s disease for almost five years, and although I did the best I could to take care of her, I realized that it was no longer safe for her to live with me. I still have to work, and she couldn’t stay home alone. Even though my adult son lives with me, we were not able to manage. She tried to leave the house multiple times, and she is often paranoid, thinking that we are stealing from her. I thought it was the right thing to do, but now I am haunted with guilt. She is miserable there and begs to come home. Other times she yells at me that I am “no good to her.” I don’t know what to do and I feel terrible. How can I get over feeling so guilty?
Placing someone in a nursing home is a very difficult and personal decision that many caregivers face. There is no perfect answer, but placement is a valid and realistic option for many families. I wonder, however, if instead of guilt, you may be feeling grief. Guilt comes when you are responsible for having done something wrong like harming someone. Part of grief may be a result of regret – a feeling that you would have wished it had turned out differently. And that is very normal. You have not done anything wrong. Sometimes, professionals are needed to ensure that a person with dementia gets the care that is needed.
It is also very normal for it to take a while for the person with dementia to adjust to a new living situation. Give her time to settle in, and if she continues to be agitated, consult with her physician to see if there are any medications that might be helpful, and stay in touch with the staff to see how they are responding to her.
Meanwhile, you have an opportunity to focus on your relationship with your mother, rather than always having to focus on the tasks that need to be done. You are still looking out for her and making sure that she is well cared for. But now you can enjoy your time together – reminisce, look at pictures, play a simple card game, watch movies or favorite old TV shows, or take her for outings.
This is also a good time for you to start to take care of yourself. What have you stopped doing these past years that you would like to enjoy again? What kinds of things have you always wanted to do, but didn’t have the time? Know that moving your mother is a time of adjustment for you too, but that there are still many things in life to look forward to.
For additional support and information about placing a person with dementia, visit our Residential Care page or call our Helpline at 844-435-7259.
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