For decades, a large percentage
of the older population has remained on the homestead for nearly a
lifetime, in sharp contrast to today’s generation that frequently
moves or resides in temporary housing. Unfortunately, as our parents
and elderly relatives age and their health becomes frail, the
agonizing decision to move them to a safe and supportive environment
becomes necessary. Resistance and grief are common reactions to
leaving the home that is comfortable, familiar and full of treasured
Adult children and other family members are often faced with the
reality of their loved one’s limitations and inability to safely
remain in their current setting due to dementia, progressive disease
processes, diminishing eyesight or caregiver fatigue. Other factors
that necessitate change are: wandering, confusion, weight loss,
falls, medication incompliance, sleep disturbances, driving
accidents, lack of self care and isolation. In addition, finding and
financing adequate home care services may present a barrier to
remaining at home. This dilemma is difficult for families as they
attempt to weigh all of the factors and ultimately prepare for a
move away from the homestead. Sadness, guilt, helplessness and
anxiety are just some of the feelings that can arise during this
time of instability and uncertainty.
As the need for change becomes clearer, a sense of grief and loss
can be felt by all members of the family. Just as in death, the five
stages of grief can apply to this difficult transition in life.
1) Denial about the reality of
the health and safety conditions at home.
2) Anger at the changes that have occurred, at the loss of security
of one’s personal space and at the family members who may be
responsible for this change.
3) Bargaining to remain in the home longer, promises to fix the
problems and making deals to avoid a move.
4) Depression that may be present or develop as the result of moving
and having to let go of one’s current lifestyle.
5) And finally acceptance of the change; a chance to refocus, gain
energy and set new goals in a different environment.
Here are some suggestions to help caregivers and family
members grieve and assist in the transition from a lifetime
home to assisted living or another care setting:
Plan a family
meeting where all concerned parties can come together
and thoroughly discuss needs and moving options. Be
truthful and realistic about the need for a loved one to
move. Initially, keep emotions to the side and focus on
the facts at hand, especially if your loved one is
unable to comprehend the situation and see the bigger
Talk with others who
may have already traveled on this journey and learn from
their experiences. Find others who can ‘walk’ beside you
during this transition such as a physician, clergy,
friend, social worker, caregiver consultant or the care
provider of the residence in which your loved one will
Be prepared for good
days and bad days as change and loss are realized by all
who are involved. Be aware that decisions and emotions
may waiver during this transition process. Remain
focused on the risks and facts surrounding the need for
change and continue to move forward. Offer reassurance
when resistance surfaces and keep a positive attitude
about the move and the opportunities that may be
available at the new residence.
Involve the family
member or loved one in the planning and preparation to
move by touring several housing options and allow
choices for items to take along such as antiques,
furniture or photos that generate fond memories.
If a married couple
is forced to separate due to differing care needs, allow
time to grieve the change in the relationship, address
fears, and seek out opportunities for the spouse to
spend mealtime, bedtime or other quality times with
their spouse on a daily basis. Encourage the spouse who
remains at home to seek out new activities, volunteer,
return to past hobbies or renew old friendships to help
fill the empty hours of the day.
caregiving is no longer needed, time can be spent
focusing on rekindling the relationship with your loved
one that may have become strained during the caregiving
years. Reminiscing, reviewing photo albums or sharing
memories and family stories can be fulfilling activities
Join a caregiver
support group to share your feelings and receive support
from others who have had similar experiences. Write down
feelings or ideas in a journal, check out the library
for helpful reading material, find information through
the Internet or seek support from counselors,
professionals or local organizations such as the
Alzheimer’s Association, Parkinson’s Disease
Organization or American Cancer Society.
Written by Kristine Dwyer, LSW, and Caregiver Consultant
for Carlton County Public Health, Cloquet, Minnesota
Natl. Family Caregiver Support Program
Information to caregivers about available
Assistance to caregivers in gaining access
to supportive services.
Individual counseling, help in organizing
support groups, and caregiver training.
Respite care for family caregivers through
the use of companions, homemakers, home health aides,
adult day care, and in-facility care.
Supplemental services, on a limited basis,
including medical supplies or nutritional items.
For information or support, contact your local
area agency on aging or the Administration on Aging directly at
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