Moving Past the Guilt: Transitioning a Loved One Into Senior Living

By: David Heisig, M.D.

Placing a loved one in a senior facility is a tough decision and it is often one accompanied by a tremendous amount of guilt.

Physician David Heisig, Fellow of the American College of Physicians (FACP), is the medical director of PACE CNY, a community-based program for the elderly, where he supervises a team of dedicated primary care practitioners, who provide medical care to more than 500 PACE CNY program participants, each year.

It is very common for families to feel guilty when they can no longer care for a beloved elder on their own. We work with families every day, in order to help them navigate the emotional toll of caring for an ageing loved one, and considering residential or in home care.

Here’s just a quick overview for alleviating caregiver guilt:

• Plan ahead, as much as possible, and involve all relevant family members, when possible. Major life changes are usually better handled with planning and communication.

• Acknowledge, recognize and understand that ageing is no one’s fault. Infirmity happens, and must be managed.

• Know that there are resources in the community. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help.

• Understand that it is vital to engage healthcare professionals to help care for declining elders.

• Consider the fact that a nursing home or facility may offer a safer environment of care than the family can provide.

• Ask questions and talk with the team who will care for your loved one. Knowledge is power.

• Appreciate the fact that you have other responsibilities beside your elder family member. You cannot care for them, if you cannot care for yourself.

• Remember that all we can do is the best we can do. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness. It is a sign of strength.

• Give the life change some time to “settle.” Many times, struggling families look back and realize that the move was overdue.

How can people move beyond this emotional time? I would like to make one thing clear: there should be no guilt in wanting to make a loved one’s life better. Often, once a loved one is settled into the right care environment, families get quality time, or can make the most of their time together, and often they wish they had done it sooner.