How to Cope with All the Feelings

When Your Parent Moves to a Skilled Nursing or Assisted Living Community

For many people, it can be a difficult realization that a skilled nursing or assisted living setting is where their parent would receive the best care. It can be confusing to navigate and recognize the needs initially, understand their complexities, and identify the level of care to best meet those needs. Once assisted living or skilled nursing (often called a “nursing home,”) is considered, many adult children feel guilt, worry, or overall negativity. 

While it’s completely respectable to have your parent’s best interest in mind and be hesitant to trust a care facility with their wellbeing, for so many older adults, these types of supportive living environments present the best path forward for them and their relationships with their family. Yes; they come along with change and an adjustment period, but they also bring new opportunities, optimal health, thriving new and old friendships, and a peace of mind that is unmatched. 

Even so, these facts alone may not be enough to cope with the emotions that come along with a parent’s move to a senior community. There are active steps you can take to turn a challenging transition into a brighter tomorrow for both you and your family.

Know that your feelings are valid and shared
Even the first steps of exploring nursing homes for a parent can lead to feelings of guilt or anxiety. Many family caregivers report feeling as if they’ve failed their parents by being unable to care for them. You may also feel added concern for a family member’s well-being beyond what you’ve already been feeling as a caregiver. 

Feelings like these are entirely normal and experienced by many facing this transition. Remember that you’re making this choice because you care, not because you’ve stopped caring. Sharing the burden of caregiving with trained professionals is not the same as abandoning your loved one. It’s quite the opposite, in fact. 

Know that this is a necessary step
Pursuing an assisted care living environment isn’t a spontaneous choice. Caregivers often seek out nursing home options after seeing the condition of their loved one worsen beyond their help. For others, circumstances beyond their control make it difficult or impossible to provide the necessary care. 

The idea that caring for aging family members must fall squarely on their adult children is a new one. In years past, it was the norm in many cultures to share the work of caring for children and older adults with their entire community. Turning to others for assistance when needed is an age-old concept, and it may dramatically improve the quality of life for both you and your family member.

Create a positive environment for your parent
Your loved one will need your support as they make this move. Focusing on caring for them throughout the transition can help you better cope with it. There are a number of ways you can help them make the adjustment, which can in turn help you, too. 

Play an active role in packing items for their new home and getting them moved in. If they’re able, help them personalize their living space. You can also work with facility staff to learn about upcoming events or activities they might want to engage in. This can make the transition to their new home easier. It also helps you get familiar with the facility’s amenities and staff. Your positive engagement with their new environment will undoubtedly help as a parent adjusts.

Care for yourself while staying connected
Frequent visits from you can help your parent with feelings of discomfort and loneliness as they find a place in their new community. That said, there’s no single answer to the question, “How often should you visit a parent in skilled nursing or assisted living?” The goal is to find the best balance for you and your family member’s needs, which may take some trial and error. 

One method of coping with having a parent’s move to a senior community is to stay engaged with their care and serve as their advocate. Trained professionals can account for caregiving needs but you know your loved one best. A supportive living community will always value your input, especially when it contributes to better quality of life for your family member.

Find support

“You’re not alone in pursuing skilled nursing or assisted living care for a parent, or with struggles throughout the caregiving process.”

The Caregiver Action Network is one of the most prominent national organizations aimed at supporting a broad array of caregivers. You may also want to explore specialized support depending on your loved one’s medical needs, as is offered by organizations like the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America. These groups offer educational tools and support groups in locations around the U.S. There are likely local resources that you can connect with as well to find a community near you. 

As always, our team at Three Pillars is proud to be a resource not only for our own residents and their families, but to those in our surrounding community–and anyone reading our blog (that’s you!) If you’re working through a challenge related to senior living that you’d like to bounce off one of our experts, we’d be happy to lend a listening ear and offer suggestions as you navigate it. Just as we have been since 1905, we’re here to help; contact us today.