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Into the Hands of Strangers: 
Placing A Loved One Into A Nursing Home

By Carolyn Haynali
(Page 1 of 2)

Love is ordinarily associated with acts of nurturing, generosity, attentiveness, devotion, and care. Placing a loved one in a facility is to some degree an act of separation and nurturing is primarily provided by the professional staff. Feelings of abandonment, desertion and wrongdoing are common when we place a loved one into a facility. Caregivers can better cope with such feelings of guilt by understanding that the care that is needed can no longer be given, and that placement is an act of love. The journey I began was filled with many emotional factors and continues to play out as each new day dawns.

I have been judged for placing my husband Chuck into a nursing home. I also am going through the guilt, loneliness and uncertainty about my own future, and what will take place if something happens to me. I felt that I was the only one who could give him the best care. So turning Chuck over to someone else's care was a painful blow to me. Anger, envy and competition developed because they see him every day and I do not. It was difficult to relinquish the role of caregiver, however I have learned that many others also have the same feelings. Like myself, they are very protective of their loved one. Placing Chuck has given me some relief, but also caused me to grieve and feel guilty for not being able to take care of him anymore. I feel guilty if I'm enjoying myself and having a happy day because he is not with me. Caregivers need reminders that they have lives of their own, and are not held hostage by the terrible disease of dementia.

In placing Chuck, I felt a loss of purpose in my life, a loneliness that I have never felt before. There were times I wished I could change places with him and at times I didn't want to wake up to another day. I believed his life was being emptied of quality or meaning. It was as though I had been targeted with the worst that fate has to offer; I had to carry out what is called "the long goodbye". Yes, I have felt depressed and hopeless in being singled out this way. But now I know I have found a good home for him, and that is a blessing.

The stress I had when he was home and the aide came late, or never showed up to take care of him, or when he started to wander out of the house, is lifted from me. There were days when he thought I was the enemy and tried to hurt me, and at that point in my life I wanted to die also. There were times he woke me up during the night, asking what I was doing in his bed, who I was, and what was my name. I asked myself, what is life without him? But now my life had to go on and I had to do and accept the things I cannot change.

I have heard a lot of horrible stories about nursing homes, but can only speak on what I know and see. He is in the Veterans Home in Sandusky, Ohio, and I was fortunate to get him there. They had a waiting list of about two years. The advisor at the VA knew more than I knew. He knew the time would come that I would have to place Chuck. I also had a very good Social Worker who saw the stress and pressure I was under whenever I took Chuck in for respite care.

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