Q: My elderly mother will be making the transition from her own home to a memory care unit in an assisted living facility within the next few months. This has been a very heart wrenching decision for me. I have tried my best to keep her in the community but she has deteriorated to the point she requires more care than I can provide. Her physician and other family members have been telling me for quite awhile this is where she belongs. I feel like a failure and the guilt is overwhelming. How do I define my role once she becomes a resident of the facility?
A: In an ideal world older adults would have the ability to age in place at home.
The reality of this concept is the fact it is not always possible to provide the level of care required to keep someone at home safely as their condition deteriorates and their needs exceed what family and community services can provide. The guilt you are now experiencing is somewhat normal but not justified. Hopefully in time you will come to terms once you realize you did the best you could and placement was in your mother’s best interest.
For a family member who has the desire and ability to stay involved in their loved one’s life…placement does not necessarily mean the end of the caregiver role. The role is merely evolving and is influx. You can play a critical role in her care and the success of placement. In the beginning your presence can help ease the transition.
Visit as often as your schedule allows to alleviate her possible feelings of abandonment. Emotional support will always be extremely important. You can provide insight of “who your mother is” to staff assigned to her care. Your mother may not have the capacity of informing staff of all her likes and dislikes but you hold all of this valuable information. It could be as simple as she doesn’t like the door of her room closed or she gets very cold in bed even during the summer. Clue them in about her eating habits, or the activities she still enjoys. Painting a picture of your mother goes beyond all the medical background that would be provided prior to her placement.
Never underestimate the role of advocate you can continue to assume. Keep your eyes and ears open when visiting your mother. If you have any concerns about the quality of care being provided speak with the director or nursing supervisor. This does not mean you are creating a confrontational situation. Your goal is to find a solution.
The month of November is a time to recognize, support and empower family caregivers. The intensity of caregiving varies from person to person but their efforts should always be acknowledged.
Are you struggling caring for an older adult or having difficulty locating resources? Our staff is available for a no-cost consultation, set up at your convenience, to help guide you through your caregiving experience. For more details or to schedule an appointment, please call 800-892-0890.
Do you have a question? We encourage inquiries and comments from our readers. Please direct your correspondence to firstname.lastname@example.org or Elder Services of the Merrimack Valley and North Shore, Inc., Age Information Department, 280 Merrimack Street, Suite 400, Lawrence, MA 01843. Joan Hatem-Roy is the Chief Executive Officer of Elder Services of Merrimack Valley and North Shore.