Originally published by the Lakelands Leader in our advice column the Laudable Life.
Q: Lately I have been feeling very guilty that I am not able to provide the care that my aging mother needs. I have had to put her in an assisted living facility because with her progressing dementia I cannot handle caring for her and my own family at the same time any longer. I know that in the long run I am doing right by her, but I still feel horrible that I can’t always be there for her and don’t always want to be. I still want to live and enjoy my own life too. How can I manage my guilt?
A: Most children want to be able to repay their parents for the love and support they have received and the work that it took to raise them, so you are not alone in this feeling of guilty. It is important to recognize, though, that we often are not equipped to provide all the care that an aging adult needs. It is difficult to play the role of nurse, driver, accountant, maid, etc. while also managing a family and a life of your own. Perhaps a better use of your time and energy is to investigate the range of local care facilities both larger complex and smaller home-based to ensure you have chosen a quality care facility. Stay heavily involved with regular visits and oversight of the care plan and consult with the geriatric social worker when you need assistance in assessing the quality of care that your mother is receiving. Remember if needed you may need to make a facility change some point to best meet your mothers evolving needs and that’s not so terrible.
Additionally, I would recommend you ask someone with good boundaries (friend, spouse, sibling) to periodically remind you that you are in fact doing the right thing for your parent. For example, if your parent were to insist that you remove her from the care facility and allow her to live in your home, it would be very uncomfortable to tell her that she cannot live with you any longer. Of course, you might feel horrible about saying it, but you need to know it is what is likely what is best for her and for your family. In this situation it will help to have someone around you that can reassure you that you are making the right decision, even when it feels wrong. If there is no one like this in your life then it may be worthwhile to seek out the help of a professional therapist. Remember you are not alone and some of the best decisions we make for ourselves and our family members aren’t always easy.