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How to Cope with Guilt After a Loved One Transitions to Assisted Living

Caring for a loved one in your family, either a sibling, aunt or uncle, parent, grandparent, or your spouse, can bring both immense happiness and extreme stress into your life. Many families provide care themselves to avoid having their loved one transition to assisted living.

Why do People Feel Guilt Over Such Necessary Decisions?

Continuing to strive at the tasks involved in keeping your loved one living at home might seem important because of promises you made years ago. The natural desire of your family member to remain in a familiar setting can also weigh heavily on your mind. The severity of illnesses or an extremely rapid decline in health or mental faculties can turn such promises and goals into extreme hardships.
Maintaining existing schedules and commitments become more challenging to do simply because the number of hours in the day do not increase to reflect the change in your obligations. Not fulfilling the goals you mentally set for yourself, plus any perceived feelings of disappointment coming from other people can cause feelings of guilt.

Where does Guilt Come From and is it Normal?

Because guilt, whether warranted or not, can make caregiving even more stressful, knowing how to cope with this common aspect can help you in many ways. The first thing to realize, however, is that many decisions you must make at this stage often involve changes. These changes can make your family member, as well as others in the family, unhappy or even angry. Feeling guilty over making others miserable is normal, although uncomfortable.
A significant change, such as deciding that the time has come to help your loved one transition to assisted living, brings immense guilt for many. It can also cause a sense of relief to wash over you because now more of your time reverts back to you. This, in turn, can make you feel guilty for new reasons.

How can Someone Cope Better with Feelings of Guilt?

One method to cope with guilty feelings is to directly address the situation with a pro’s and con’s methodology. Before someone makes the transition to assisted living, their care took up irregular hours, possibly requiring more than one person to provide for all of their needs. Some gaps may have existed, leaving the individual without adequate care.
After moving, however, this might all change for the better. Instead of needing to set aside large blocks of time on your schedule, you can alternatively visit during less hectic times with your loved one. Listening to him or her tell you stories about things in the past loudly contrasts with mixing and administering medicines, keeping doctor’s visits, scheduling senior care services, and other non-stop chores.

Guilt and Worry are Related

One thing about guilt is that it can cause you to worry. Did you do enough? Could you have done things differently? Should you have tried longer or been more patient? Along with these questions, being away from your loved one while they lived at home may have left you worried about emergencies at home. During your absence and that of others responsible for providing care, many things can happen.
Smokers can start fires. Forgetfulness can lead to burned food and smoke inhalation, or possibly fire. Falls can happen to anyone – it is the inability to reach out for help right after such accidents that can make matters worse. Scam artists also take advantage of the elderly in society. Realizing that giving 24-hour care simply is not possible without a move to assisted living can cinch the decision for many caregiving family members.
Instead of worrying about someone while you take care of family responsibilities or fulfill work duties, you can relax and concentrate. If an emergency does happen, the assisted living facility staff knows to call you. Calling your family member and not hearing someone answer the phone can make you worry. Once your family member is residing in assisted living, this need not ever happen again.

Understand that Any Change can Make You Experience Guilty Feelings

Many changes happen as we age. Growing older is an inevitable fact of life, and as it happens, the things around us change. Television programs air their final episode. Newscasters retire and are never or only rarely ever seen again. Companies regularly phase-out favorite brands of food and other products. Doctors retire and introduce their patients to their replacement.
The differences caused by these situations all produce some degree of frustration or disappointment. The changes that come with a move to assisted living all seem to happen simultaneously. Overloaded with upcoming changes, the unknown, a sense of future impending losses, and a lack of autonomy can make even well-adjusted adults cringe.
Educating yourself about the assisted living home, meeting staff, talking to residents, looking at reviews on social media, and keeping an open mind can help diminish fears and apprehensions your loved one holds. This alone can decrease how guilty you feel over the situation. Over time, feelings of guilt do subside, even when they feel tremendous while making these kinds of decisions.

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