Having a parent who is beginning to show the signs of deteriorating health can turn into an extremely stressful situation. You instinctively want the best for them, but slowly your involvement in their caretaking becomes the center of your life, making your own personal responsibilities and relationships take a back seat.
In a perfect world, mom or dad would be able to stay in their own home where so many memories were made. However, the reality is that new living arrangements with enhanced care is often the only option that can keep up with your parent’s changing medical and caretaking needs.
Once you make the decision to enlist assisted living or memory care for your parent, it’s completely normal to experience feelings of guilt.
When wading through this emotional decision, it’s important to remove the personal burden and feelings of inadequacy. Your parent would not want to feel like they are encumbering their children’s lives. If you are unable to care for yourself, it will become impossible to stay on top of where your parent is with regards to their health.
A useful analogy to make this point is that of an oxygen mask on an airplane. If you neglect taking a breath of oxygen from the mask, you will be unable to assist your child with their own mask, due to your own oxygen depletion.
Here’s some other things to keep in mind to keep guilt from taking over in your mind when exploring new living arrangements for your parent.
- First off, you need to acknowledge you are in a difficult position. For many, it’s natural to feel that moving your parent into an assisted living community is abandoning your own responsibility. The reality is that making the transition to a new living arrangement for your parent in declining health can enhance everyone’s life. When in a well-staffed assisted-living community, there are competent medical professionals on staff to help when problems arise and make sure all their needs are met. You can return to your own life and visit your parent as much as you can. After the transition is complete, find little ways to make your parent’s day better and look at your role as supplementing the care they are now receiving at their new home.
- When you find a good assisted living community for your parent, let them take on the responsibility of being your family member’s primary caretaker. Skilled professionals are more capable of providing adequate care. As a child of a senior citizen, guilty feelings can creep into the decision to uproot your parent and make new living arrangements, when you think it is your responsibility to devote your life 24/7 to meeting their every need. Once you find a suitable assisted-living community for your parent, you can go back to feeling like their child.
- You didn’t cause the decline in your parent’s health. The physical and cognitive deterioration they are experiencing would exist, regardless of you putting your life on hold to care for them or finding a well-suited, senior-living community for your parent to call home. It is imperative to accept the reality of the situation. Making sure your parent is as happy and healthy as possible, of course, is your top priority in this situation. Modern assisted living communities have all aspects of meeting your parent’s needs covered, ranging from health and nutrition to an active social calendar. Once you make new living arrangements for mom or dad, you can be comfortable living with the consequences of the decision.
- Finding a good assisted living community will be a win-win situation on both ends. After some time, any guilty feelings can subside, knowing you had your parent’s best interest in mind. Once the decision to relocate mom or dad has been made, it is important to remain an active advocate in their life. You can’t live your life for others. You can only do so much to assist someone, even when it is one of the most important people in your life.
Unfortunately, aging and deterioration in health is a part of life. As Americans live longer, it’s a road more and more people will have to navigate for a parent. Just don’t get clouded by feeling like it’s your job to keep them living under the same roof.
As a child, you should view your responsibility is to put them in the best situation possible and receive top-notch care going forward.
Change can be a very good thing, even if it’s met initially with resistance by mom or dad.
Make sure to visit as many assisted-living communities as possible and ask questions to make sure your parent’s new home is the right fit.