Over a number of years I have talked with many people who have promised a spouse or a parent that they would never place them in a “home.” At the time these promises were made they were sincere, but no one anticipated the circumstances that would arise to make keeping that promise impossible. While there is nothing done in a nursing home or personal care home that cannot be done at home if enough of the right kind of help is available, the sad reality is that, for many caregivers, there just is not enough help to provide the necessary care at home. The result is often a crushing load of GUILT. However, when we look at the intent of what was promised, I believe you will find that there is no reason to feel guilty because you can still keep the intent of the promise you made.
What is behind a promise to never place a loved one in a “home?” Historically, “homes” were for people who had no one to care for them and who stayed in the care facility until they died. Consequently, it is no wonder that, on the part of people seeking this promise, they feel that going to a “home” means they have been abandoned by their families. What these individuals are actually seeking through such a promise is the assurance that they will be loved and valued throughout their lives. Placing someone in a “home” when care at home becomes too difficult to provide does not have to mean abandonment, since the family caregiver can still provide love and support. In fact, what may occur as the role changes from caregiver to advocate, is that the caregiver, who may have become exhausted from caregiving duties, is able to focus again on their relationship with the loved one who needs care. (Being a caregiver can take such a physical and emotional toll on an individual that many caregivers have difficulty relating as a spouse or other family member to the one for whom they are caring.)
So, if you as a caregiver have had to place your loved one in a “home,” remember that you can keep the intent of your promise not to place your loved one by continuing to provide the love and support each one of us needs. You may even find that, as your loved one becomes accustomed to new caregivers in a new setting, the quality of your relationship will improve, and you can rest assured in the knowledge that you have kept the “real” promise that you made.
Elder Care Coordinator