When I think back on the Alzheimer’s journey of my family, the one thing that always comes to mind is the stress around placing my Dad into a memory care facility. While many families choose to have their loved one age in place (with in-home care), many families like ours are forced to make that move to keep our loved one safe or to protect their care partner because the job of caregiving is taking a catastrophic toll on them. Either way, it is never an easy decision.
I speak to many family caregivers, and the one thing they all have in common is guilt. How many of us have heard our parents tell each other that they “will never place them in a home?’ Or, hear an adult child tell friends or siblings that they “will never put Mom or Dad in a nursing home?” We all have the best intentions, but the truth is: Alzheimer’s can destroy far more than the person with the disease. We need to consider the family caregiver and the stress on them, and that may mean a move to assisted living or memory care.
Joyce Logan, Co-Founder of Ruby Care Senior Living Advisors in Plano, Texas, saw the caregiver stress on her sister when their mother’s dementia progressed. “My sister’s health, both physically and medically, was declining,” said Joyce. “Caregiver stress was the number one reason we moved our Mom to memory care.”
So, how do you overcome the guilt and stress of such a big decision?
1. Understand that you did not fail. Choosing assisted living or memory care means you are making a smart decision to get the level of care your loved one needs, and keeping them safe. You can still be hands-on with your loved one by communicating with the medical staff and visiting often.
2. Accept that it is okay (and necessary) to take care of yourself. Being a caregiver to someone with Alzheimer’s can be a full-time job, leaving little time for self-care. Putting others first is very admirable, but your own health may impact your ability to be a caregiver.
3. Visit Assisted Living Communities. To avoid guild over concern about the level of care a loved one will receive, take time to really get to know the environment your mother or father will be living in. There are senior living advisors across the country that you can work with to help find the perfect “home” for your loved one. Look for a community that will fill the days with companionship, activities, and compassion.
4. Help them make their new place feel like home. A room in a senior living community is definitely different than their home. Consider photographs and mementos that will make the new space more theirs. They may not like it, but as they get settled, it will be exceptionally comforting for them in their new community.
5. Visit as often as possible. Your loved one with dementia may forget you and the role you had in their life, but they will always remember that you are one of their people. If possible, commit to a regular schedule that you can manage and bring a favorite food or memory to share when you do.
Taking care of a spouse or parent with Alzheimer’s disease is a big job, and there may come a time when you need to relinquish the responsibility. Finding a perfect senior living facility may become key to the ultimate care of your loved one and will improve their lives and allow you to better care for yourself. Asking for help does not mean you failed as a caregiver, it means you are brave!
Final note: If you are considering a move to assisted living or memory care, look for Senior Living Advisors in your area. Most advisors do the work for you free of charge, helping find the perfect place for your loved one.