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Dealing with Guilt When Considering Assisted Living or Nursing Home Care



Coming from a philosophy of person-centered care, which puts our clients (elderly individuals) at the center of their own care and caters to their wishes and preferences, our team is diligent in studying all the available options and resources that can keep an aging person in their own home for as long as possible if they wish to age in place. In many cases, when families seek our help with providing care, we are able to help provide home modifications and accommodations, in-home care, and at-home services that may make it possible for seniors to avoid moving into a live-in facility. One of the most emotionally challenging decisions an adult child or caregiver can make is to place an aging parent or relative in an assisted living facility or a nursing home, but the reality is that there are cases where it’s the most viable and practical option available.


It's natural for feelings of guilt and anxiety to take over, but it’s important to have an open discussion around the topic and address these complex emotions, which can hopefully make way for guidance on how to navigate this difficult decision.


Understanding the Emotional Struggle


It's crucial to acknowledge that feeling guilty about placing a loved one in assisted living or a nursing home is a common emotional response. According to a study by AARP, nearly 40% of caregivers reported feeling guilt related to caregiving decisions.


These feelings often arise from the senior’s perceived abandonment, their mistrust for the potential quality of care that will be provided by the facility, and their loss of independence, autonomy, and current community. Furthermore, elderly people transitioning from being looked after by informal caregivers (friends and family) to staying at a nursing home where their care will be in the hands of strangers brings up thoughts of being burdensome to their family, and these may be difficult to shake off or work around.


Navigating Feelings of Guilt


  1. Open and Honest Communication: Maintain open communication with your loved one about the reasons for this decision. Explain that it is motivated by their best interests and quality of care.

  2. Bring in an impartial, knowledgeable, and trusted expert: Hiring a geriatric care management team to help navigate this transition, explore all the options, recommend a reputable establishment where your loved one would not be going in blind, and coordinate logistics can give you the time and space to process the emotions that this process brings up. Having a professional who can expertly address the senior’s concerns and answer their questions can do wonders for putting everyone’s mind at ease and having said professional involved long-term can mean more check-ins to ensure that the facility’s services are up to your standards and expectations.

  3. Visit Regularly: Assure your loved one that you will visit them regularly and stay involved in their care.

  4. Support Groups: Join caregiver support groups, either in person or online, to connect with others facing similar challenges. Sharing experiences can help alleviate guilt.

  5. Focus on Quality of Life: Remember that the decision to place your loved one in a facility is often driven by the desire to improve their overall quality of life and safety.


Ultimately, placing an aging parent or relative in an assisted living or nursing home is a significant decision that should be made with careful consideration. While guilt is a natural response, understanding that it can be in the best interest of your loved one and seeking support to cope with these feelings is essential for both your well-being and theirs.


If you are interested in exploring your options in providing care for an aging parent or loved one, whether at home or in a live-in facility, please visit our consult page (www.seniorsteps.or/contact) to request a FREE call from a geriatric care expert. You can also book a consultation by messaging us directly and confidentially on any social media platform.

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