According to an AARP study, 90 percent of people aged 65 and over would rather stay in their own homes as they get older and not move to a senior living community. This likely comes as no surprise, and your loved one may have expressed this very sentiment to you. And although circumstances beyond your control may indicate that it would be more beneficial for their health, safety, and quality of life to leave home, we understand the guilt can be overwhelming. That’s why we’ve created these tips to help you navigate those feelings when moving a loved one to senior living.
Common Causes of Guilt
There are certainly some common causes of the guilt you feel, but in order to move forward, it can be helpful to understand them a bit more.
You promised you’d never make them move – Whether you’ve literally made the promise or it’s implied due to your loved one’s wishes, again, the circumstances that prompt the move are likely out of your control even with the best of intentions. You simply can’t fault yourself for doing what’s in your loved one’s best interests; they likely did the same when you were a child, even if you didn’t necessarily like the decision at first, right?
You don’t feel it’s your place – It’s such a surreal feeling when the dynamic between you and your loved one changes and you move from child to decision-maker. It’s understandable to be uncomfortable and feel the situation is unfair on their behalf, but if they are no longer able to make these decisions on their own you simply have no choice. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t involve your loved one in the process as much as possible, which can help ease the transition for both of you.
You feel like you’ve failed them – Whether you have been your loved one’s full-time caregiver or not, having this role in any capacity takes far more of a toll – emotionally, physically, and financially – than most people realize. Not to mention, you’re likely juggling your own commitments as well which makes it even harder, and their medical needs may now be beyond your capacity. As such, it’s not that you’ve failed, but rather, you’re choosing to make sure they have the care and quality of life they deserve. Plus, you’ll still be part of their care, just in a different way.
You’re uprooting them when they’re struggling the most – You may wonder if a move is too much for them to handle right now. After all, home is where they feel safe and comfortable. While the truth is that there will likely be an adjustment period, you may both be surprised at the positive difference in your loved one with the right support and an environment that can truly help them thrive.
How Guilt Impacts Your Health
But it’s not just caregiving that takes its toll, and guilt can have negative impacts on your health, too. Harboring these feelings over the long term can actually cause both physical and emotional health issues such as:
- Increased blood pressure
- Increased risk of heart disease
- Increased risk of diabetes
- Depression and anxiety disorders
- Gastrointestinal disorders
- A negative effect on your immune system
Tips to Turn the Guilt of Moving a Loved One to Senior Living Around
Perhaps one of the worst things about guilt is that it can cause you to second guess your decisions at a time when you need to be able to trust your instincts about what is best for your loved one. However, these tips can help you keep that guilt in check:
Find a healthy way to express your emotions – Moving a loved one to senior living is a time filled with many emotions, not just guilt. The important thing is to not let your guilt, fear, sadness, and other feelings consume you. Instead, find a healthy outlet in which to express those emotions. Work them out at the gym or through running. If you’re creative, put your feelings into words or art. If you garden or have other hobbies, spending more time there can help calm your mind and heart.
Enlist support – Give yourself grace by recognizing this isn’t something you have to go through alone. You may feel the need to be strong for your loved one, and that’s OK, but make time to talk to friends who’ve been in similar situations or find a support group, online or through the senior living community. It may be helpful to consider professional counseling as well.
Make the transition as easy as you can – Another way to help with guilt and ensure your loved one has the best support is to carefully vet all your options. Research all your options, talk to those who know the communities best, then visit and ask questions. By educating yourself and getting your questions answered, you and your loved one will have more confidence and peace of mind. We also recommend our previous blog on easing your loved one’s transition to senior living for specific tips to make the move itself easier.
Give the transition time – Yes, moving a loved one to senior living is hard for both of you. But rather than focus on that, focus on the benefits of them no longer having the burdens of maintaining the house, cooking, and cleaning, the comfort of knowing they have all the support they need, and the opportunities for them to be more active, social and engaged in life. Not to mention having more opportunities to spend quality time together instead of you being focused on caregiving. And while there may be ups and downs, over time seeing your loved one thrive will be the best benefit of all for everyone!