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Dementia Whisperer: Family Caregivers and Guilt

Posted by Mary Van Orman
Date:

Guilty Image

If you are a caregiver or an adult child concerned about the health of your parent, you may have experienced a common emotion: guilt.  Guilt over if you’ve made the right decision about the care of your parent. Guilt that your parent or siblings won’t approve or think you’ve done enough. Guilt because you need to move them into an assisted living or memory care community.  Or the guilt that you haven’t moved them out of their home sooner. Guilt that your home cannot accommodate them, or you cannot accommodate their wishes.  There are many reasons you might feel guilty, but most are unfounded or inaccurate.

When your aging parent can no longer live on their own, you and your family will face some difficult decisions. But those decisions can be exponentially more difficult when compounded with feelings of guilt.  Guilt is a feeling that you will need to confront before it harms your parents or damages relationships with other members of your family.

There is no clear roadmap to how to care for your parent and when to move them into an assisted living or memory care community.  Every situation is as unique as the individuals involved.  You cannot predict the future, but you can make a judgment call based on current facts and how their health is progressing.  Often the best option is to move them into an assisted living or memory care community that is better equipped to handle their around-the-clock needs.  And as you weigh your options, you may feel judged by others, or even, by your parent.  This is when the feelings of guilt will creep in.

Negatively affects your self-worth.  According to Dementia Whisperer, Laura Wayman, you may have been the caregiver for your parent for a long time.  You have established a daily routine you are comfortable with.   But as a parent’s care needs increase or their memory loss progresses, it may no longer be possible to meet their needs at home.  Placing their care into the hands of professionals can leave some caregivers feeling as if they aren’t good enough. It can be hard and painful to ask for help, but it is in the best interest of your parent.

You may feel selfish.  Many caregivers neglect their own health while caring for a parent, but your well-being is important too. With your parent no longer in your full-time care, you can make yourself a priority again.  You should not feel guilty about reclaiming some of your time and energy for yourself.   Acknowledge that you have done a good job caring for your parent, and understand this is the next step needed for their health.

A delay of necessary care.  Guilt can cause you to avoid making a decision about their care.  It can cloud your judgment. Waiting too long can cause a medical condition to progress or a home to deteriorate from neglect.  Postponing a decision due to guilt won’t make it go away, and many cases can cause more harm.

And remember, if you move your parent into an assisted living or memory care community, you are still part of their team.  You can still take an active role in their care and should be informed and involved in their care decisions.  You are not abandoning them.  You are providing them more care and attention. You are changing direction on how you can best care for them.

Conflict among the family. Perhaps you see your parent’s situation clearly, but other family members’ choices are veiled in guilt.  You will need to acknowledge their emotions and help them see the facts to better inform their decisions.  Every family member has the best intentions when it comes to the care of their parent, but don’t allow guilt to make a difficult choice harder.  It may be time to have a frank family discussion with your parent and siblings.

Harm to your parent.  If you know that your parent cannot live on their own, leaving them in their home can put them in danger.  Drug interactions could be avoided with oversight.  A decline in health could possibly be avoided with good nutrition and activity.  Your guilt can cause a bad situation to become worse if you do not get the care that your parent needs.

In addition, your parent may make you feel guilty for moving them from their home.  But their judgment about their own health may not be realistic. They may be in denial about their current situation.   In some cases, you must carry the burden to make sure they are safe and healthy.

Limiting your parent’s happiness and well-being. If guilt is limiting your housing and care options for your parent, you may be hindering their ability to thrive.  Yes, your parent may be slower and frail, but they can still live a full life with necessary support.  Moving into an assisted living or memory care community may mean new friendships, less stress, shared joy, and laughter.  Assisted living and memory care communities have changed greatly from “the sad old folk’s homes” of years past.  They are now comfortable, warm, friendly homes to share with others in a similar situation.  Why let your guilt get in the way of their happiness?

Feeling like you failed them.  Your parent may have said they never want to live in an assisted living community, but this is often said before they get sick, become immobile, or suffer from memory loss.  As our parents are living longer, the fact is they may need more services and assistance as they age.  We all hope to be in perfect health and to live independently, but that is not the case for most.   With assistance from care staff, they can live more comfortably.  You have not failed them if you make a smart decision based on their healthcare needs. Educate yourself about the services senior housing can provide, and you will feel more confident in your choice.

Release your feelings of guilt that can cloud your better judgment.  You are not the cause of your parent’s health issues, frailty, or lack of mobility.  You are problem-solving and making the best decision for your family based on the facts of their current situation.  Never feel guilty about that!

If you have questions about where to start reach out to your local Aegis Living community and ask to speak with the marketing director.  They can answer your initial questions and help you take the next step for you and your parent.