You’ve reached the point that your loved one has moved into a memory care community, or will need to soon. You know its best, but all the feelings you have make you doubt yourself. This adjustment will take time for both of you. Know that up front. Your husband/wife will not (in most cases) be 100% comfortable in their new surroundings immediately. Sure, some may ‘transition’ easier than others, but for many, this can take at least a month or two for your loved one to feel comfortable.
You’ll also find yourself feeling alone. You may have had visitors in and out of your home to help support you and your spouse while he/she was still living with you. These people may not come around as much. This may be OK. Or, this may cause you to be lonely or to grieve. Make your concerns known to family and friends. Let them know if you still need help or assistance. Maybe you would just feel better with a weekly check in or phone call. Remember your friends and family are likely trying to give you space and may assume that you want to be left alone after all the hard work you were doing for so long.
Identify what overwhelms you the most about being alone. Is it the quiet house? Is it the lack of purpose you feel now that you are no longer caring for your loved one? Is it that your daily routine has totally changed now that you’re on your own? Enlist a friend to help you find services that might relieve you of these concerns. Make a point to find groups that you might choose to join for social engagement, spiritual support or general interest. Ask a friend or family member to help you with financial concerns, or speak with a financial advisor. Make and plan meals in advance, freezing extra for future meal preparation. Or look into a meal delivery service. Talk to a landscaper about handling the grass and shoveling snow. Many of the things that can overcome you at first, are easily navigated. It will get easier with time.
It is normal for you to experience many of the following feelings, after moving your loved one in to a memory care community:
Stress Guilt Loneliness Grief
Don’t be surprised if moving your loved one has you feeling stress. Planning for, and actually moving your loved one is just the first step in the process, and it is completely normal to be overwhelmed. As with many big events in our lives, there comes a degree of stress.
You have been mainly, or in some cases, solely responsible for the care, safety and well-being of your loved one. It is common for people in your position to feel like they are letting their loved one down, by admitting that they need help. DO NOT FEEL GUILTY. Obviously, this is typically ‘easier said than done’, however, it should be something you prepare for, and line up ways to work around and through. Reach out to friends, family, clergy or any supportive folks in your life to help ease your situation. You will need this support system to help you get through the transition, just as your loved one will need time to transition to their new community and environment.
The fear of officially being “alone” is valid. You’re not alone in feeling this way, as you move your loved one into a community. Especially if it is your spouse that has moved. You’ve spent your life together. And even if the recent past has caused this “togetherness” to be much different, as in the case of a dementia diagnosis, you were still physically together in the same residence. There will be a void. Again, planning ahead to be with others and to have a friend or family member available to talk with, will help you to transition through this phase. It may be helpful to have a family member stay with you or visit on a set day. This is your new normal, much as your loved one is facing a new normal. Try to focus on the benefits of having others to manage the “heavy lifting” of caregiving details, and try to return to your role of daughter, son, wife or husband.
Losing a loved one to a diagnosis of dementia, especially if the memory loss is severe, can cause a great deal of grief. Certainly your loved one is still there, but it’s often not the same. Relationships change, awareness changes, and in some cases, your loved one may simply not recognize you for who you are in their life. It’s very typical, for folks affected by dementia, to not even recognize themselves in a mirror. It would stand to reason, that they, therefore, would no longer recognize their family member as who they are. This can leave family members grieving for the relationship that they previously had. This is normal, and many health care professionals are available to help work through this difficult time.
It may be beneficial to connect with a group of folks who are in a similar situation to yours. All Maplewood Senior Living communities offer Support Groups, free and open to the public. Attend regularly, or just when you feel you need that extra help or support. Talking to others about their experiences and how they have worked through the stress, guilt or grief may help you find direction or solutions. These sessions provide an open forum for caregivers to discuss ideas, offer each other advice, and establish a sense of community, as it is so important to remember that you are not alone on this journey. Contact us for more information on upcoming support groups at Maplewood Senior Living.