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Caregiver Guilt: Breaking the Promise of Placing a Loved One in a “Home”

By Hollie Glover, MA, LPC, NCC

When taking on the responsibility of becoming a caregiver for a loved one, there’s a lot of pressure to make the best decisions regarding every aspect of their life. Placing them in a “home” or a long-term care facility can be an extremely difficult decision – especially if you ever promised them it’s something you would never do. And even though it may be what’s best for both of you, the guilt and grief of breaking that sacred vow can be devastating.

Recognize Your Reasons for Placement

There are a number of reasons you may need to place your loved one. This could include a significant decline in one or more of the following areas:

  • Their health: They require an intensive level of care
  • Your health: Your physical health is starting to suffer
  • Their safety: You are incapable of providing around-the-clock supervision
  • Your safety: Your loved one has become physically aggressive or combative
  • Their quality of life: They are suffering and no longer comfortable or content
  • Your quality of life: Providing care for your loved one has become a mental/emotional burden

While many of these issues can be managed with short-term solutions, their long-term effects can have severe consequences – much more dire than breaking a promise that realistically you can no longer keep.

How to Cope With the Guilt

Coming to terms with the following realizations can help you become more confident in your decision to place your loved in a facility and overcome your caregiver’s guilt.

  • Trust your decision and shield yourself from those who question it. You made an informed decision based on the information and resources you had. Create boundaries and/or limit your exposure to those who question or try to create self-doubt.
  • Give yourself permission to feel your emotions. It is okay to cry and be angry. Accept your emotions, name them and own them, then work to manage them one day at a time.
  • Focus on self-care. You’ve been doing the job of an entire nursing facility, which can be physically, mentally and emotionally demanding. Plan to take some time to nurture yourself and focus on becoming your loved one’s wife, husband, daughter, son, friend, etc. again.
  • Forgive yourself. You are not a bad person or a failure. Don’t dwell on the past; focus on the present and challenge yourself to help others with the knowledge you have gained.
  • Remain involved. Trust the staff is delivering the attention and care your loved one needs while embracing your new role and responsibilities. Visit them, advocate for them and find new ways to express your love and care. 

Are you a North Texas resident struggling with your decision to place your loved one in a long-term care facility? Speak with a James L. West dementia care specialist at 817-877-1199 to learn more about our personalized approach to expert, compassionate residential and respite care.