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Feature: Making Difficult Decisions for Your Loved One

When making the difficult decision to place a loved one in a care facility how does one make such a decision? What should one consider?

When the situation decides for you, it makes the decision a little easier. For example, a caregiver may get sick and is no condition to be able to provide care. Or the care receiver breaks a hip and needs more care than can be given at home. At other times the decision is made because the caregiver is burned out, not sleeping, or finances demand that nursing home placement is the only option. Often caregivers feel guiltier when they make the decision under these circumstances.

The most common emotion when placing a loved one is guilt. Guilt means you did something wrong. Placement is not wrong, but one of the most difficult decisions that one ever has to make. The guilt can be exchanged for regret by understanding that it is the circumstances of a terrible disease, a difficult care situation, and a need to take care of ourselves as well as our loved ones. With all of these emotions comes grief, the loss of the person who we knew, the loss of what we vowed to do for a loved one, the loss of the caregiver role.

In making the difficult decision about placement, caregivers balance their emotions with objective practical information. Both play a role in when and how the decision is made. It is a process of balancing the positives and negatives for the primary caregiver and the care receiver.

Financial status always plays a role in this decision. Planning in advance with an elder law attorney will help sort out estate planning and preservation and state benefit qualifications. The earlier in advance you plan, the easier this process is.

Involving the whole family makes the decision easier because then it is a joint decision. The earlier in the disease process that these issues can be discussed, the easier it will be to make the decision when the time comes. Its better to make a decision when it is not made in crisis mode.

Part of gathering information and advanced planning is discovering what the options are, the costs, and kind of care provided. Taking time to visit facilities will help you decide which one is right for you and your loved one. When making a visit, be prepared to deal with a flood of emotions. It may help to bring a friend or family member with you.

Get support for such difficult decisions. Remember healing comes from allowing yourself to feel the loss, and experience the sadness in the midst of them.

Caregiver Support Group

Call Angela Hopkins, LMSW, BSW/Medical Social Worker