Guilt when moving a parent to senior living
In your head you know it’s time for your parent to move to senior living. Yet, your heart hesitates. Although moving to a community will be better for their health, safety and overall quality of life, you still feel guilty. You’re not alone; in our experience, most adult children feel this way. But you don’t need to let that guilt cloud your judgement or negatively impact your own health. These tips can help you deal with guilt when moving a parent to senior living.
Dangers of guilt
Guilt isn’t just an uncomfortable emotion; this feeling can actually cause physical and emotional problems in the long term if you aren’t able to overcome it.
Shown to increase levels of cortisol, your body’s stress hormone which controls the fight or flight response, prolonged feelings of guilt can increase blood pressure as well as your risk of heart disease, diabetes, depression and anxiety disorders.
Common reasons of guilt
Whether your parent’s health has taken a sudden turn, there are safety concerns in the home, you’ve been providing care but feel their needs are more than you can manage or any number of other reasons; the decision to move to senior living is never easy, no matter how necessary it may be. Common reasons you may feel guilty include:
- You promised them you wouldn’t – Many of us have made this very promise with the best of intentions only to realize later on that we simply can’t give our parent the care they need at home. You can’t fault yourself for not being able to predict the future.
- Feeling you’ve failed at caregiving – Very few people are truly prepared for this role. Not only from the perspective of the knowledge and skills required, but the emotional, physical and financial toll it can take over time. It’s not that you’ve failed, you’re still caring for your parent, just in a different way.
- You’re uprooting their life when they’re struggling the most – You may be asking, “Is this fair?” or “Is it too much for them to handle?” While there will be an adjustment period, you may both be surprised at the difference the right support can make.
- You don’t feel you have the right to make these decisions – You’re the child; they’re the parent, right? It can feel surreal as the dynamic shifts from child to decision-maker for your parent. While it’s important to involve them as much as possible, ultimately, they may no longer be capable of making this type of decision on their own.
- Living your normal life when they can’t – And you feel guilty for any moment of joy when your parent’s life is anything but normal now. Remember that senior living gives them opportunities to thrive in ways in which you may not have been able to achieve at home. Plus, wouldn’t your loved one or parent want you to be happy?
Overcoming the guilt can help you both
Sometimes the guilt can cause adult children to second guess their instincts about senior living. That’s why it’s so important to trust yourself and your intentions to do what’s best for your parent. These tips can help:
- Find a healthy outlet – Certainly you may continue to feel guilt from time to time, just do your best not to let it consume you. Instead, find an outlet in which to express those emotions and work through them. Perhaps talk to friends who’ve been in similar situations or find a support group (your senior living community can likely help you here).
- Carefully consider your options – Another way to help with guilt and ensure your parent is in the right place is to carefully vet all your options. Learn, assess, research and repeat. By educating yourself and getting your questions answered, you’ll both have more confidence and peace of mind with the move to senior living.
- Give it time – Yes, it’s hard right now. But rather than focus on how difficult the transition might be (often it goes much smoother than imagined), focus on the long-term benefits for your parent. And for you with more opportunity to spend quality time with them instead of caregiving.