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Getting Past the Guilt: When it’s Time for a Long-Term Care Facility

August 23, 2018
Daughter gives her elderly father a kiss on the cheek while hugging him

When caring for a loved one becomes dangerous or unmanageable, moving them to a long-term care facility can be one of the most emotional decisions you’ll ever make. Even when you know it’s the best and safest option, your range of feelings can change every day and guilt and sadness can start to take over. To help you get past the guilt—and better adjust and cope with this transition—try to remember:

  • You Haven’t Failed: Your loved one simply needs more care and supervision than you are able (or qualified) to give. While challenging, keep reminding yourself that you made a smart decision to get them the support they need so you know they are cared for, safe and secure.
  • You Will Need Some Time: This is going to be a big adjustment for everyone, so you can’t expect the transition to be quick or easy. Experts agree that it can take three to six months to adjust to assisted living, and this timeline works both ways. Recognize your feelings of loss and give yourself permission to have bad days.
  • You’re Still a Caregiver: While your caregiving role has changed, it’s still just as important! Find little and new ways to show your love. Try working together to make their space feel like home or going with them to new activities or classes. Be your loved one’s advocate and participate in care by building relationships with staff. This will help you voice your concerns and find solutions together so you know their needs are met.
  • Setbacks are Expected: Just when you think your loved one is getting settled and you are feeling better about your decision, things can change. They may tell you they’re lonely, don’t like the medical team or want to go home. While this can break your heart, realizing it’s normal and will pass can help you push through. If your loved one continues to struggle, consider reaching out to a social worker at the facility who can help develop a plan to make them feel more at home. If you do have concerns about their safety or treatment, don’t ignore your instincts.
  • You Will Need to Reach Out: Because this is such a big change, talk to other people who have gone through similar experiences. They can help you focus on why your loved one is in long-term care in the first place, remind you why it was the right decision and share success stories. There are often support groups for families within facilities or online options if you prefer to feel more anonymous.
  • Self Care is Top Priority: You will now have a little more time to focus on your own wellbeing. While this can cause feelings of guilt, your caregiving role has likely taken a toll on your mental, emotional and physical health. Take the time to care for yourself through exercise, sleep, a healthy diet and stress relief.

Sometimes being a good caregiver means recognizing your own limitations, accepting help and making difficult decisions. While your role has changed, continue to be your loved one’s biggest advocate, support system and favourite visitor, and in time your feelings of guilt should start to fade.