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Facing Senior Care Facility Guilt: Should We Feel Bad About Moving Mom?

By Margaret Manning November 01, 2016 Senior Living

Moving one or both parents to a senior care facility is an emotional decision for everyone involved. The person moving may feel sad that they are leaving their home behind. They may also feel frustrated that they are being asked to give up some of their independence.

Depending on how strongly they feel about “aging in place,” they may be mildly annoyed or outright hostile during the entire process.

For the person recommending the move, the situation is no less emotional. They may feel like they are being asked to choose between their loved one’s happiness and their safety. They may also feel guilty that they are moving some of the responsibility for caring for their aging parent or sibling to a 3rd party. They may even feel angry at themselves for not being able to handle everything themselves.

Talking with the caregivers in our community, I can tell you that most of us are way too hard on ourselves when we are faced with this difficult decision.

While a very small percentage of people may try to convince their parents to move into a senior care facility for purely selfish reasons, the great majority of us have our parents’ best interests at heart. Or, at the very least, we are trying to balance our parents’ happiness with our own happiness and that of our other family members.

For the rest of this article, I’ll assume that you have good reasons for suggesting that your loved one move into a senior care facility. For example, perhaps your parent or older sibling has been diagnosed with a form of dementia. Or, maybe they have taken one too many falls. Either way, it’s time to let the guilt go.

Here are a few things to remember if you are facing senior care facility guilt.

Most Senior Care Facility Residents Are Happier Than They Expect

One of the reasons that we feel so guilty when we ask a parent to move into a senior care facility is that we feel like we are trading their happiness for their safety. But, is this really the case?

As I wrote in a previous article, new assisted living residents are 5 times more likely to say that their lives improved after moving than to say that their lives worsened.

Moving to a senior care facility is a big step for most people. Suggesting that your loved one move to a new home is really about helping them to take the first step. Not everyone is happier in their new home, but, it’s important to remember that the great majority are.

Your Happiness is Also Important

Most caregivers that I have talked to say that looking after an elderly parent is important, fulfilling work. They say that their parents deserve their support and that they are happy to give it.

At the same time, most non-professional caregivers admit that looking after a loved one can be frustrating, difficult and stressful. Even the best caregivers struggle to have fun with their aging parents when so much of their time is taken up with day-to-day tasks.

The truth is that, while your parents’ happiness is important, it is not the only factor. I have spoken with caregivers who told me that asking their loved one to move to a senior care facility was the best thing that they ever did. These women explained that, after the move, they were finally able to truly enjoy visiting their loved one again.

In other words, with someone else helping their loved one with his or her everyday tasks, they could get back to being a son or daughter again. In their new situation, the smiles came more frequently and the conversations lasted longer.

Take the Time to Take Care of Yourself Too

Regardless of whether your parent is ready to move into a senior care facility, it is so important to take care of yourself. This was the most common advice that I received when I talked to the caregivers in our community.

Emotions, by definition, aren’t rational. Even our guilt feels stronger when we are stressed out. If you are helping your parent to move into a senior care facility, don’t forget to take time for yourself. Go to the gym. Eat plenty of heathy food. Treat yourself to the occasional spa treatment.

Ironically, when you take the time to take care of yourself, you find the strength you need to take care of others.

At the end of the day, it is natural to feel a little guilty about asking your parents to move into a senior care facility. That said, just because it is natural, doesn’t mean that it is inevitable or healthy.

You are a good person. You genuinely want the best for your loved one. So, follow your heart – and your head – and everything will be ok.

Have you had to make the difficult decision to suggest that a loved one move into a senior care facility? Did you deal with any feelings of guilt? What helped you to get through this difficult time? Please join the conversation.

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The Author

Margaret Manning is the founder of Sixty and Me. She is an entrepreneur, author and speaker. Margaret is passionate about building dynamic and engaged communities that improve lives and change perceptions. Margaret can be contacted at

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