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Overcoming Guilt


Dealing with guilt when moving a loved one to an assisted living residence is nearly inevitable when it comes to caring for vulnerable people. These feelings are a normal response. You want to ensure that your elderly parents will be cared for in the future, but the demands of acting as the primary caregiver may be too overwhelming. We can feel guilty by deciding to take action, deciding to wait, asking others for help, and not asking for help. There are many factors that can stir up these feelings of guilt within us. The most painful decision for us to make is whether or not it’s in our loved one’s best interest. If it is also in our best interest, the guilt looms even larger. The right timing is also an important factor when looking at the big picture.


There are many different ways to help us cope with this guilt. Rather than worrying about every little detail of care, you must learn to detach a little. It is painful and impractical to be so consumed in each detail. You must step back and ask yourself “What more could I do?” Realize that you didn’t cause your loved ones illness or aging. Understand that sometimes professional care is necessary. Take time to grieve your loss. This is a big change in not only your loved one’s life, but also in your own. You can only help them so much. Do your best, and then move forward with your own life. Few aging parents or spouses would want their adult children or their mate to entirely give up living any kind of life apart from their needs. You will still be part of the care team. You will still be your loved one’s advocate. You will give much of your attention and your life to help him or her, but as a spouse or family member, not as a caregiver. Overall, it will be a winning situation for both sides.


It is important to understand the reasons for moving elderly parents to a facility where they can receive more care. More often than not, an aging parent or spouse’s declining health is the top reason. It is difficult to predict the progression of an elderly parent’s health. Without supervision, issues such as dementia and restricted mobility can pose major health risks. Assisted living can offer consistent care for your loved one. Financial costs can be another major factor. In-home care costs can be costly, especially if your parent’s condition worsens. Finding a quality assisted-living facility may be more affordable in the long run. The role of full-time caregiver can often be too much for a family member to handle alone. This can cause stress, strain family relationships, interrupt work and managing a household of your own, and alter your sleep patterns. Caring for another person requires a great deal of time and energy and can be physically exhausting for one person. This can provide you a chance to stay actively involved in making decisions about your parent’s future without the added stresses of being the primary caregiver.

Oftentimes we can feel like we are always failing. We can experience constant confusion, asking ourselves what our loved one’s best interest is. Dementia and Alzheimer’s can come on quickly or slowly develop. Either way, you can feel as though it challenges every fiber of who you are. You may find yourself lacking patience with your loved one. There are plenty of factors that go into feeling guilty. Emotions range from feeling inadequate to feeling overly responsible. We may assume moving them into assisted living declares loudly and clearly that we can’t handle taking care of them. The “could-a, would-a, should-a” moments further add to our guilty feelings, creating an emotional vicious cycle. We find ourselves rethinking our elder care decision, replaying conversations, wondering if we are doing the right thing. This second-guessing can turn the already finite time we have to spend with our parents into even more stressful and anxious experiences. Focusing on the small victories helps alleviate our guilt. Small victories include creating meaningful activities, visiting facilities with your parents early, even keeping your parents together for as long as possible. Making an informed decision about what facility you choose is a huge step towards this goal.


“Empowering our parents is a priceless opportunity. They remain keepers of the family, full of family history and cultural knowledge. We craft their legacy and add a bit of eternity when we communicate. They appreciate the longevity of their family and their fear (and our guilt) of being supplanted diminishes. Moving our parents is never easy. We are faced with an elder care decision that challenges our ideal of the parent-child relationship, and the often narrow window in which to make these decisions usually forces us to make momentous choices without having every resource available to us. But we do the best we can for them with what we have, and hopefully remember that our parents once did the same for us.”[1] It is never easy. In fact, it can be extremely hard. But we must realize it is for the best.



  1. “Coping with Guilt over an Elder Care Decision.” A Place For Mom. 16 June 2014.
  2. Bursack, Carol Bradley. “Coping With a Nursing Home Decision.” AgingCare. 16 June 2014.

Loumarr, Ess. “Reasons for Putting Elderly Parents in Nursing Homes.” Livestrong. 16 June 2014.

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