Navigating the Emotional Journey: Coping Strategies for Caregiver Guilt
Coping with caregiver guilt for moving an elderly loved one to a care facility is usually the last resort for the family members. The chronic disease, coupled with declining mental and physical health, compels family members to consider putting their elderly in a care facility. The elderly fret about the idea of living in care homes away from their families, and they often plead and urge their family members to reconsider their decision. However, considering the health of the senior loved one and the kind of care that they would need, family members with a heavy heart decide to move them to a care facility. While, the decision doesn’t come easy to them, and they often end up falling prey to feelings of guilt, grief, and remorse.
Caregiver guilt is an emotional response that is tied to the belief that you alone should be able to take care of your loved one till the end. When this does not happen for many reasons, it causes one to have feelings of guilt. As caregivers, what we fail to understand is that at the end of the day, we are humans too, and do not possess superhuman capabilities. There is a limit to which we can help our elderly with their disease and disability, hence when professional assistance needs to be involved, we should certainly not ignore it. Feelings of guilt arise when we feel that we have broken our promise to never move our loved one to a care facility. However, certain difficult decisions need to be taken for the betterment of our loved ones, and we should never feel guilty about it.
Advantages and disadvantages of putting elderly loved one in a care facility
Placing a loved one in a care facility is never an easy decision for family members. The guilt and grief that come along after leaving a loved one in a care facility is unsurmountable. Having said this, let us look into the pros and cons of considering a care facility for our senior loved ones.
Benefits of facility care:
- Facility care centers are often equipped with medical professionals 24/7. This indicates, that whenever your loved one needs medical support, doctors are available round the clock for their help. Any kind of medical emergency would be taken care of.
- Care facility centers are secure places for elderlies with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. So, if your loved ones have the habit of wandering, then this problem would be taken good care of.
Facility care centers are a good place for social interaction. Your elderly loved ones would get to meet people of their ages and can spend good quality time with them.
Disadvantages of facility care:
- Facility care centers are pretty expensive and can make matters difficult for even a financially stable family.
- Facility care centers can also get problematic in terms of the independence they provide to their inmates. The elderly do not get as much independence as they would have otherwise gotten in their own homes. There are certain rigid rules and regulations, which can often leave your elderly alone and helpless.
There have been quite several instances that talk about the poor-quality care of facility centers. Inmates are subjected to ill-treatment, neglect, and even abuse at some of the facility care centers. Such instances give us sleepless nights and make us stand up and think about our decision to place our elderly in care facilities. It is therefore advised, to do a thorough research about the facility center before we take a decision.
Reasons for placing a loved one in a care facility
Placing a loved one in a care facility becomes extremely necessary under certain circumstances. Some of the situations or conditions that compel a family to select a care facility for their aging loved ones have been cited below:
- When an aging senior is left alone after the demise of their partner or when the children move out for educational or occupational purposes.
- A dysfunctional family, wherein the aging senior’s needs and health are not taken care of, then a care facility is usually the best available option.
- According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 60% of the elderly population suffer from chronic diseases which also include dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. In such cases, a severe decline in cognitive functioning can make nursing home placement mandatory, as the care needs for such seniors are a bit complicated to be handled by the family members.
- A decline in the physical capacity of the seniors may also make nursing home placement necessary.
Understanding the difficult emotions
One must recognize as well as acknowledge the different emotions that would emerge after placing your loved one in a care facility. Understanding the emotions is necessary for your mental health. Here is a brief list of some of the common emotions that one goes through after moving their senior loved one to a care facility:
- Having guilty pangs when you are in the midst of an enjoyable experience.
- You are always unhappy and not satisfied with the care services of the nursing facility staff.
- You find yourself in the never-ending cycle of guilt, relief, and then again feeling of guilt.
- You may constantly feel the need to be present in the care facility 24×7.
You are depressed, anxious, and worried about your senior loved one.
Top 5 Reasons you should stop feeling caregiver guilt
While it is human nature to feel guilty after placing your loved one in a facility care center, it is also wise to consider the reasons, as to what made you take that step. Below are the top 5 reasons that would help you stop feeling guilty about your decision.
The health of your loved one:
It is for the benefit of your elderly loved one that you have considered a facility care center for them. There is trained medical staff who take 24×7 care of your loved one. Facility care centers also have bedside attendants who help with the daily activities of your loved ones. They also have, in–house doctors who keep the clock vigil on your loved ones. The seniors are provided with healthy meals at recommended times, based on their health issues.
Care and attention – round the clock:
The most important thing on which we fail is, providing round-the-clock care and attention to our elderly loved ones. Be it work at the office or home, taking care of children, social commitments, etc. somehow does not allow us to impart round-the-clock attention to our aging parents. In such cases, when our elderly need extra care and attention due to an illness or major injury, it becomes necessary to keep them in a place where they can be taken care of properly. The experienced and trained staff at facility care centers make sure that your loved ones are comfortable and also take care of them around the clock.
Free from household chores:
At facility care centers, your elderly loved ones need not perform any household chores and are also free from any duties or responsibilities. They are given several other activities to keep them occupied and active.
Their comfort matters:
At the end of the day, we have to ensure that our elderly loved ones are comfortable. The facility centers have built-in state-of-the-art facilities which ensure that the environment is comfortable and peaceful.
At facility centers, elderly loved ones may meet many from the same age group, which enhances their social interaction, taking away feelings of boredom and loneliness.
Dealing with the caregiver guilt of placing your loved one in a care facility
If you have taken the difficult decision of moving your senior loved one to a nursing home or any other care facility, chances are that you are struggling with feelings of caregiver guilt and remorse. Research has shown that the caregiver burden would continue even aftercare facility placement of your loved one, owing to the new challenges and demands.
It is extremely necessary to recognize the different emotions one goes through after sending their loved one to a care facility. Ignoring these feelings would only add to your anxiety, which would lead to depression and give rise to the feeling of worthlessness. Therefore, it is necessary to understand your emotions, acknowledge them, and work towards them.
Below are some ways to deal with the caregiver guilt:
Understand that you have made the right decision:
You need to understand and acknowledge that your loved ones are in the right hands. There are people in the facility centers that are taking good care of them. The staff there are trained and would take care of your loved ones 24×7. Whenever in doubt, you can always visit your loved one.
Think about the benefits of living in a care facility:
A care facility has many benefits to offer, which you can see only when your elderly move into one. Well-trained staff personnel, healthy meals, 24×7 care, and attention, all are necessary for the well-being of your elderly loved one.
Help your loved one adjust to the new environment:
By working together with your loved one you can always help him/her adjust to the new environment. Show your love in little ways such as bringing them flowers or things that would brighten up their mood. Taking such steps would certainly help you deal with your guilt positively.
Do not neglect your health:
It is quite natural for you to neglect your desires, and physical and mental health while taking care of your loved one. However, it is extremely necessary that you also look after your health. Once your loved one moves into a care facility, instead of feeling guilty, it is necessary that you relax enjoy your time, and socialize with family and friends. Take this as a chance to look after your physical, emotional, spiritual as well as social needs. Once you know that your loved one is being taken care of, you should start taking care of your health.
Speak your heart out:
You must talk to someone and express your feelings of guilt and remorse. If required you can even consider taking the help of a mental health professional. They are very good at counseling and can help you effectively come out of your guilt.
Journaling is yet another way of expressing your emotions. Write down all your feelings which you have experienced in your entire journey of caregiving. You could also mention the reasons that made you shift your loved one to a care facility center. Moreover, you could also write down the emotional turmoil you are going through and whether or not these feelings will benefit your loved one positively. When you start writing down your experiences and emotions, you will begin to realize the actual purpose of care facility placement and help you come to terms with the reality. This would in turn help you slowly come out of guilt and remorse.
Connect with other caregivers:
Connecting with other caregivers or family and friends impacted with dementia or Alzheimer’s will help you cope with your situation. When you know and realize that you are not alone, but there are many more like you, in this journey, then gradually you will come to terms with reality and shun off feelings of guilt and grief.
As our loved ones continue to age, their need for extra care and attention also increases. Their frail body, and declining memory, demand our 24X7 attention and extra care. Furthermore, it is necessary to move them to a place where they would be taken better care of. Finally, if you are a working professional, it may not be always possible for you to look after your parents. In such cases, it is always advisable to move them to a safe and secure place, where they would get round-the-clock attention and proper care for their medical needs. Making such a decision can always make you feel guilty, but for the sake of your loved ones, you need to make a difficult decision that would eventually benefit all concerned. Here is another post to check out on how to take baby steps in caregiving. Check it out!