How to Overcome the Guilt of Moving a Parent to Senior Living

by | Senior Living

Seeing your parent age and begin to need help are some of the hardest parts of being an adult. Likely only matched by the decision that a move to senior living would be more beneficial for their health, safety and quality of life than staying home. The range of emotions can be vast, but guilt is most often front and center. While understandable, it’s important not to let it cloud your better judgement or negatively impact your health. Here’s how to overcome the guilt of moving a parent to senior living.

What’s Behind the Guilt

The first step in overcoming the guilt of moving your parent to senior living is to acknowledge what’s driving the emotion. Here are some of most common reasons adult children feel guilty in this situation:

  • You said you’d never make them move – You made this promise with the best of intentions but none of us can predict the future. Whether it’s a sudden health scare, a chronic condition that’s worsening, safety concerns, social isolation concerns or any number of other reasons that prompt the move; you can’t blame yourself for doing what’s in your parent’s best interest NOW.
  • Feeling you’ve failed them – Perhaps you’ve been their caregiver to this point, but the reality is few people are prepared for the emotional, physical and financial toll it can take over time. And quite honestly, depending on your parent’s evolving needs; you may not have the medical skills to care for them indefinitely. Regardless, you’re still caring for your parent, just in a different way.
  • It’s not your place to make these decisions – It’s particularly hard for adult children when the dynamic changes for you from child to decision-maker for your parent. While you should definitely involve them as much as possible; if they are no longer capable of making this type of decision on their own then you simply have no choice.
  • You feel it’s unfair to live a ‘normal’ life when they can’t – Yes, this transition is hard and certainly may seem unfair, but at the same time you’ve made the decision for them to move to senior living because of the benefits it offers that aren’t available at home. You’ll likely be surprised at how quickly your parent begins to thrive. In fact, many families say they wish they’d made the move sooner.

Effects of Guilt on Your Health

You might think that living with guilt is the least you can do after moving your parent to senior living. But, harboring guilt over the long term can actually cause both physical and emotional health issues. Your parent certainly wouldn’t want that for you!

For example, prolonged guilt can increase your blood pressure as well as your risk of heart disease, diabetes, depression and anxiety disorders and can also cause insomnia, gastrointestinal disorders and negatively affect your immune system.

Tips to Overcome the Guilt

While acknowledging what’s behind the guilt is the first step, next you should find healthy ways to work through it such as:

  • Surrounding yourself with support – It’s ok to feel how you’re feeling but it’s important to express those emotions as well perhaps with friends who’ve been there, through caregiving support groups or both! 
  • Making the transition as easy as possible – After finding the best senior living community for your parent’s needs, focus also on the transition. Our previous blog can help with tips on planning ahead for the move, how to make your parent feel more comfortable and how to be there for them throughout each step.
  • Giving it time – Your parent may not love it on day one; a move like this is a big adjustment so be patient. But also focus on the benefits of senior living such as no more worries about cooking, cleaning or home maintenance, opportunities for them to be more active and social and peace of mind that support is always at hand should they need it. 

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