Even when we know that moving an elderly loved one into a care home is the right thing to do, the care home guilt that accompanies it can be overwhelming. No one takes this decision lightly, and far from being a selfish decision, it is usually the people who care the most and have acted most selflessly who must make it.
There’s an irony to this.
It is only because people care so much that they feel bad about making this necessary change, and only because they have put so much time, effort and love into caring that they are in a position to make it in the first place. Their love and consideration have led them to a position where they must make a rational decision regarding what is best for their loved one.
Most of us know this, but for many of us, the feelings of guilt persist. The reasons behind this are, of course, individual but there can be a lot of commonalities when it comes to care home guilt.
The causes of care home guilt
Some people have negative ideas about care homes in general, and perhaps your loved one expressed their fears in that regard. A lot of people also have guilt of not taking care of their parents or elderly relatives themselves. You may feel a sense of debt to the person who looked after you for so much of your life, and you hoped to be able to provide the same type of care in return.
Perhaps the biggest reason many of us feel guilty is being forced to accept that, in terms of care, our best may simply no longer be good enough to provide the quality of life that our loved ones deserve. Similarly, many worry about not spending as much time together, and that their relationship may be hurt by the decision to move them into a care home.
In truth, if the decision about moving to a care home has been made, that does mean that for some reason or another, the person providing care is no longer capable of doing it to a standard which the loved one requires and deserves. However, this is not something to feel guilty about.
You’re not a superhero. No amount of willpower will mean you are able to provide medical care beyond your qualifications or often, beyond the abilities of a single individual. No amount of determination will create more hours in the day with which you can take on more responsibilities if your loved one’s condition is further limiting their capabilities. Your love for them doesn’t change the realities of various medical conditions nor the needs associated with them.
This is an important thing to realise because often, guilt about elderly parents comes from this idea that if only we tried a little harder, we could make it work. But the problem with that is reality gets in the way.
Understanding and accepting what’s best for you both
The reality is that if a person’s condition and needs change, then it is harmful to both them and to yourself to attempt to provide a level of care that is simply beyond your means.
It is also harmful to your relationship to live this way. Continuing in a situation where one person attempts to deliver care that they cannot sufficiently maintain is not only an unhealthy environment for any relationship but is also unfair on the one requiring the care.
Moving into a care home, where they can be properly looked after and you can actually spend quality time together, is far better at fostering a healthier relationship. All time spent together is not equal, and time spent actually enjoying each other’s company is infinitely more valuable. In addition to improving your personal relationship, this quality time together can also help your loved one adapt to a new environment and see that their negative thoughts about care homes were misplaced.
And in terms of wanting to repay the love and the support that they provided you, if you’re dealing with parents or other family members who were important in your upbringing, then the right thing is to ensure they have the best quality of life possible.
When the choice is between staying in a situation where your loved one is not getting the care they need and deserve, or one where they are properly looked after by experienced and dedicated experts, the right choice is obvious. Not only is it nothing to feel guilty about but ensuring that your loved one gets the best care is a selfless decision that you should feel proud of. Just make sure you ask the right questions when choosing a care home and involve your loved ones in the decision as much as possible.