Guilt over placing Dad in nursing home.

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My sister and placed our 84 year old father in a nursing facility a couple of months ago. He has congestive heart failure and was having some confusing moments, had fallen on different occasions, left the gas on the stove on, etc. We both worked and could not afford to give up our jobs and insurance benefits. Dad became more confused in the nursing facility, wanders a lot, when the staff try to assist him, he becomes agitated and becomes like a caged animal and thinks everyone is trying to get him. It was just recently brought to our attention that he had enough "episodes" that he was going to have to be admitted to a "behavior center" to "adjust his medication" We didn't feel we had a choice so we went with the staff to admit him to the "behavior" center. We were not allowed to stay and we had to watch our dad being left in a strange place with strange people and we could see the anxiety when we left. This all happened so fast and we were just left feeling like we had absolutely pushed him over the mental edge and the two times we have visited him, he talks to us, but nothing makes much sense and he is very listless, not to mention his mobility has declined. All of his vital signs are good and they have really not changed his medication, but the complete change of demeanor has us puzzled not to mention the awful guilt we both feel. I have never felt so helpless, not to mention how helpless my dad must feel. I have cried and prayed until I don't know what to do, as has my sister. I need some input. I have told myself that if he makes it out of the "behavior" center and is still able to be mobile that I am bundling him up and bringing him home. I think the nursing home jumped the gun on sending him away.


While I was reading your post I actually had to double check to see if this wasn't a post I posted a year ago. I could have written this about my dad.

I too had a moment at one point where I was convinced I had to bring my dad back home (he had lived with me prior to going into a NH). I felt so guilty because I had always told my dad that I would never put him in a NH. But he fell which led to the hospital which led to rehab which led to the NH.

I think the change of going from "home" to a NH is traumatic for our elderly parents. I'm not saying we still shouldn't opt for a NH, only that it's a very difficult transition. Bright lights, staff yelling up and down the hallways, people coming into the room 24/7, rules that have to be followed (like having to wait for someone to come in and help you).

I would advise against bringing him home. He will not "snap out of it" once he's home. Maybe the NH did jump the gun but he's there now. I know that helpless feeling you described. My heart broke for my dad. Once my dad was in the NH we found out he had swelling of the brain related to liver failure and there was no way I could care for him at home. Had he not ended up in the NH I would have had a crisis on my hands. He was in the right place but the right place doesn't always mean the best place.

With everything your dad has been through if you bring him home, how he is right now is what you'll be dealing with. Can you deal with that? And don't make a decision based on guilt. Caregivers are programmed to feel guilty. Sometimes I think it's the only emotion we have. But guilt is tricky and prohibits us from seeing clearly. You want your pain to stop, you want your dad's pain to stop. But if you bring him home you will bringing along his pain with him. He's deteriorated and he won't bounce back if you bring him home. Bringing him home is a knee-jerk reaction to your guilt, it's not a realistic option at this point.

I have patients I see in a nursing home and last week on my way in to see a patient I saw what was obviously a family meeting going on. The next time I was in this facility I saw the adult child who was in on this family meeting. She was sitting on a couch by herself, her head in her hands, wailing as if her heart were breaking and it probably was. It touched me because that was me. When it was decided that my dad couldn't come home I was almost hysterical. I was in the facility, my dad was in his room, and I had been talking to the social worker about hospice. My heart was breaking and it hurt very much and I cried and cried and we couldn't even continue the meeting I was so beside myself. And THEN (and this has nothing to do with my dad) I sat down on a glass coffee table and crashed right through. I was laying on a bed of glass and the paramedics had to come. I was still crying and crying and they thought I was crying because I was hurt, which I wasn't, but they put up sheets around me to preserve my privacy and because I just kept on crying. I tried to tell people that I wasn't crying because I was hurt but I just couldn't convey that. That was one of the worst days of my life.

So that woman I saw crying in the NH and my own experience at my dad's NH tells me that feeling the way you do, the way I did, and the way that lady I saw did is a universal reaction.

And my caregiving didn't end once my dad was in the NH. I'm sure you've discovered this yourself. The caregiving doesn't end it just gets different. We still have to advocate on behalf of our loved one, there are still many responsibilities that I think not many people anticipate. It's hard work having a loved one in a NH and it was the most stressful thing I'd ever been through in my entire life. But I knew I couldn't bring my dad home and when I voiced my intention a half of dozen people (family and staff) jumped on me and told me that it was impossible. And they were right.

Visit your dad. Enjoy your time with him and let him enjoy his time with you. Your lucky to have your sister by your side just like my brother was by my side. Lean on eachother. But don't make hasty, emotional decisions based on how guilty you feel. I think feeling guilty is part of the package when our elderly parent is in a NH.
I think eyerishlass's answer is excellent. I can't speak to putting a loved one in a nursing home - we haven't reached that point yet. But I can totally agree with the statement that caregivers tend to feel guilt automatically. We are the ones willing to make the hard decisions. Guilt comes up along with regret and sorrow. Just moving my Mom to a safe but low-income eligible independent living situation brought up my guilt. I cannot imagine what you are going through. But I know you will find lots of help here.

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