Q: Mom has Alzheimer’s and is in a nursing home. I get physically ill at the thought of visiting. How can I cope with this?

A: First of all, I salute you for your honesty. Your reaction to the nursing home is normal and you should be comforted in that knowledge. Given your mother's condition it is not likely that she will be leaving the nursing home. It is painful to visit a nursing home and see so many infirmed elderly people. Even more painful with the onset of Alzheimer's and dementia is the thought of visiting a person who is now so different from the person you knew and loved.

In the past, when I've gone to visit family members who are in homes, my first reaction was physical. I've since taught myself how to show up, be present and spend quality time without feeling ill.

However, I wasn't able to accomplish this until I came to terms with the fact that I was feeling fear that this would be me one day. Fear can make us physically ill. And fear is simply False Evidence Appearing Real. This does not have to be you in future years. Given your mother's condition, she probably doesn't know how often or how long your visits are, but you need to go. In fact, short visits are often best. Shorter visits don't interfere with the staff's provision of care and don't interrupt the resident's activity time. Intentionally lessening the amount of time spent at the facility may feel like less pressure on you and could reduce some of the anxiety.

So you gear up emotionally. You purchase some bright flowers and you KNOW in your heart that you are serving the greater good by visiting your mom. And when you are there, take her out of her room and find some location or activity that allows you to focus on Mom, rather than the place. It will be good for her and it just might save your sanity.

On the AgingCare Caregiver Forum you'll find many other family members expressing the same feelings. You are not alone. Sharing your experience with other caregivers might help lessen your anxiety. You will receive comfort and compassion from others who are experiencing the same journey and possible tips and strategies for coping with the challenges of caring for mom.

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