“I Promised My Parents I’d Never Put Them in a Care Home”
Caregiving is a job that is full of ups and downs. Many of us take on this role out of love and concern, but as care needs increase, the pressure ramps up and we are faced with increasingly difficult care decisions. One of the most heart wrenching choices a family caregiver must make is whether to place a loved one in a nursing home.
Unrealistic Promises Complicate Caregiving
Back when our loved ones were younger and healthier, many of us promised in good faith that we would never put them in a nursing home. Doing so would be unthinkable—like abandoning them in their time of need. So, we naively pledge to care for them ourselves until the very end. We assure them that they’ll be able to live out their remaining years at home with family tending to their needs.
This is admirable yet unrealistic thinking. Recent research shows that the average duration of caregiving is a whopping 4.5 years. As time goes by and our loved ones’ care needs mount, we find ourselves spread thinner and thinner. Eventually, we are forced to admit that we can’t raise our families, work our jobs, care for ourselves and provide full-time hands-on care over the long term. So, we regretfully start looking into other options. They need more care than we can single-handedly provide, so we start by making some kind of change to their care plan such as hiring in-home care or enrolling them in adult day care.
There are plenty of benefits to home care and adult day programs. Seniors get the care, supervision and social interaction they need to thrive. The activity programming is far more stimulating than can be provided at home, and you get some valuable respite time away from caregiving. Yet this care doesn’t completely halt a senior’s decline. Unfortunately, the day comes when in-home care and adult day care either can’t meet all their needs or the cost of such assistance becomes unaffordable. At that point, only one choice remains: a nursing home.
Ditch the Guilt about Senior Care Decisions: Cheryl E. Woodson, MD, a geriatrician, family caregiver to her mother with Alzheimer’s, and author of To Survive Caregiving: A Daughter’s Experience, A Doctor’s Advice on Finding Hope, Help and Health, says that you can still honor the spirit of your promise even if you have to break it.
None of us knows what the future holds. Our parents cling to visions of the crowded, smelly nursing homes that existed decades ago…
Minding Our Elders: Caregivers Share Their Personal Stories. “I hold onto your book as a life preserver and am reading it slowly on purpose…I don’t want it to end.” …Craig William Dayton, Film Composer
Support a caregiver or jump-start discussion in support groups with real stories – for bulk orders of Minding Our Elders e-mail Carol