You know Dad’s move into an assisted living community was a good decision—but it’s not unusual for some feelings of guilt to bubble up. If you recognize yourself experiencing caregiver guilt, use the experience to reframe your thoughts into positive ones.
- “I feel like I failed him.”
You may have promised Dad he would stay in his own home. Or perhaps you feel like you weren’t a good enough caregiver. Though feelings of failure can arise before and after a move, remember that you haven’t failed: You made the important decision to get Dad the care he needs. Because every senior’s journey is different, try not to compare yourself to others in similar situations. If you believe the decision was the best one for both you and your dad, it probably was.
- “I feel I don’t spend enough time with Dad.”
If Dad has been living with you or near your home, you may be spending less time together now. It’s easy to feel guilty about not being available for Dad, but allowing time for yourself isn’t selfish—it’s necessary. Instead of feeling guilty about having shorter visits, make the time meaningful by asking him questions, sharing memories together, and being fully present in the moment. Also, encourage Dad to get involved in activities at the senior living community and to meet others who live there. His life likely will be enriched in the new environment: Staying active and meeting new friends helps keep seniors engaged, interested, and vibrant.
- “I feel guilty when I lose my patience.”
Sometimes your elderly parent can try your patience—especially if he has dementia or Alzheimer’s. Don’t feel guilty about it: You’re both human and frustrations are bound to happen from time to time. Instead, recognize that this emotion may be signaling it’s time to take a break. You may be trying to balance too many things. Make sure you’re taking care of yourself. Be sure you’re getting enough sleep, and find someone to talk to about your feelings, whether that be a sibling, spouse, or counselor. Remember that if you’re not at your best, you can’t give your best to Dad.
- “I feel like I’ve abandoned him.”
While it’s a common emotion, this feeling is typically the opposite of what you’ve done. Actually, you’ve made sure Dad has the care he needs and deserves—which shows how much his well-being means to you. Show him your love and support by visiting often and, as necessary, continuing to discuss the benefits of the move.
Many caregivers experience some level of guilt when they move their loved one into a retirement community—but give it some time. As you both become accustomed to the new arrangement, it’s likely those feelings will soon subside.
The Life Care Services team can help guide you and your elderly parent through the adjustment of moving into a senior community.