Emotional support for family caregivers moving a loved one to memory care
Getting Help with Caregiving
Most people don’t understand the unique stresses and difficulties of caring for aging parents or family members with dementia until they experience it themselves. For the majority of families facing dementia, it’s actually in the best interest of everyone to acknowledge the need for outside help and take steps to find the right long-term care—especially as your loved one progresses through the later stages of dementia, when their health and safety can become compromised. Still, many family caregivers struggle with the decision, overwhelmed by feelings of guilt and grief that can take many emotional forms.
Maybe you never envisioned the need to seek out professional help when caring for a loved one with dementia. Maybe you promised your loved one you would never place them in assisted living. Or perhaps you feel selfish for making your well-being a priority, too. Caregiver guilt is normal.
Placing a loved one in memory care doesn’t mean that you are giving up on them or that you are letting them down. In fact, getting help may be one of the most caring things you can do to ensure their happiness, health, and dignity. At Belmont Village, our memory care experts create unique care plans that cater to each resident’s needs and abilities, helping them engage in the way that is right for them. Family members get peace of mind, knowing that they have an experienced partner in care.
“For us, the emotion and the guilt were so intense,” said Denise, the daughter of a Belmont Village resident. “It’s a hard decision. It will never be easy. You’ll never think ‘it’s time.’ But we made a list of all the duties required to care for my dad 24 hours a day. Everything my mom did for my dad takes six people at Belmont Village full time.”
Caregiver Guilt, Grief and Burnout
When you take on the job of caregiving, you have an enormous responsibility to maintain the health and safety of your family members. You’re trying to balance the time and financial commitments of caregiving on top of work, life, family, and other responsibilities. You’re making difficult decisions about situations you’ve never anticipated and never encountered before. At the same time, you’re grieving the loss of the loved one you remember and the relationship you shared, as you come to terms with this new reality.
Here are 8 simple strategies that can help you manage caregiver guilt and grief.
- Start by acknowledging your feelings of guilt and grief—and the role these emotions are playing in other aspects of your life.
- Join a support group of other family caregivers and memory care professionals who understand what you are going through.
- Learn more about dementia caregiving options and assisted living.
- Talk to a mental health professional if you are feeling overwhelmed or need more support.
- Speak with a family advisor about making the transition to assisted living or memory care and what to expect.
- Consider journaling as a way to release your stress and manage your thoughts.
- Do an activity you enjoy to help you refresh and re-set; it’s okay to take a break from caregiving responsibilities.
- Take time for self-care and give yourself permission to take care of your own needs—mentally and physically.
“It is ‘caregrieving’ as much as it is caregiving,” says Beverly Sanborn, L.C.S.W., Gerontologist and Vice President of Program Development, Belmont Village Senior Living. “Each stage of dementia is accompanied by changes in feelings and behaviors—grief, confusion, anxiety—that both the person with dementia and their caregiver are adjusting to.”
Caregiving for a loved one with dementia includes around-the-clock medication management, supervision, cleaning, transportation, meals, bathroom activities, and more—many times complicated by behavioral changes and communication struggles. It’s all-consuming, and most caregivers quickly find themselves overwhelmed, burned out and guilty for not being able to “do it all.”
“You see so many times where the caregiver actually ends up being sick or needing more assistance than the person with dementia because they’ve poured their life into their loved one,” said Michalyn Reibly, Belmont Village Memory Programs Coordinator. “And it’s very important to monitor that and get yourself some support, too.”
People with Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia often require intensive, specialized care 24/7. When a loved one has a progressive cognitive disorder, it can become increasingly difficult for them to keep up with activities of daily living. Once-simple activities like daily tasks, communication and even hygiene become challenging.
“As people with dementia enter the later phases of cognitive decline, they will need considerable environmental modifications to continue aging safely and successfully,” says Sanborn.
Moving is Just the Beginning
Even after you’ve made the decision to move your loved one into a community that specializes in memory care, the transition can be difficult. Often, people with cognitive decline don’t understand the full scope of their ability loss, and they don’t want to leave their home. But take some peace from knowing that their new environment will be able to meet their care needs while allowing them to live their most fulfilling lives. Your role doesn’t end when they move into memory care—you will still be an important part of their lives and care team. Many people even find that their relationships improve once the weight of caregiving is lifted.
“I didn’t know anything about taking care of a loved one with Alzheimer’s,” said Robert, the husband of a Belmont Village resident. “It was scary. [Belmont Village] was able to give me ideas and suggestions on how to handle the different situations that arise. For me, it was the best decision we ever made. She is so well taken care of.”
Every program at Belmont Village revolves around our innovative, evidence-based Whole Brain Fitness lifestyle. It’s designed to nurture the mind, body, and spirit each day through seven essential elements: the right nutrition and physical exercise, mental workouts and lifelong learning, reduced stress, a strong social network, and a sense of purpose. For seniors with mild to moderate cognitive impairment, the Circle of Friends® program at Belmont Village offers a unique memory care experience without the need for a secured memory care environment. Circle of Friends residents live in assisted living residences, but participate in a structured, evidence-based program of activities designed to maintain and stimulate cognitive function. For seniors with later stages of dementia, Belmont Village’s Memory Care Neighborhood provides personalized, therapeutic care within a safe, self-contained setting.
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