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Compounding grief is that patients who have reached an advanced stage of Alzheimer’s often lose awareness of recent experiences and surroundings, and may even lose recognition of their caregiver and other loved ones. Because of this, patient will probably be confused by move and unaware of suffering of child or spouse responsible for placing them in assisted living. Like I did, people begin to cry at times. Depression and anxiety, caused by guilt, sometimes become acute.
But there are a number of things that one can do to diminish feelings of guilt. In my case, besides visiting my mother every day, I always make sure that she has fresh flowers in her room. When she was able to, she spent a lot of time in her garden, and flowers help her to experience a bit of garden all time.
On Sundays, I spend day with my mother in my home, picking her up early in morning and taking her back to her assisted living facility in evening. I try never to miss a week.
Beyond that, it helps to remind oneself of advantages that an assisted living facility affords. Working in community where my mother resides provides me with some added insight into those advantages, for which I am grateful. Besides obvious – physical aspect of care – there is always-important social aspect of continuing care communities. My mother, even before entering facility, was very antisocial, and I even made a friendly bet with staff that they would not be able to get her out of her room. For three and a half years I was winning that bet, but six months ago, after much persistence on staff’s part, they finally got her to participate in events.
One day recently, while I was with my mother, she took out a quarter from a drawer in her room. Though Parkinson’s makes it difficult for her to speak, she managed to say, “cards” – my mother had won quarter playing cards. She never used to play cards.
Despite moments like these, which remind me of all that an assisted living facility offers that I alone could not, guilt and grief never entirely go away. But I know my decision was right one, and I know that I am not alone in feeling involuntary pangs of guilt. My hope is that others in my position share these same realizations.
Paulette Kaufman is currently Director of Sales at Keswick Pines, a Lifecare Center in New Jersey, which offers assisted living and comprehensive health care programs to residents, providing personal assistance, nursing care, pain management, and memory impairment support. Ms. Kaufman’s mother has been a resident of Keswick Pines for four years.
The decision to place a loved one in an assisted living facility is a difficult but frequently unavoidable one. Even though the choice may be absolutely necessary, the person forced to make the decision for their spouse or parent often feels an overwhelming sense of guilt.