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Bursack: No need to feel guilt for seeking assistance

Dear Carol: I've taken care of my mother, in her home, for several years. She is diabetic, doesn't eat right, and forgets things, including her medication. She falls quite often. I know she needs to be in a nursing home, but long ago I promised t...

Dear Carol:
I've taken care of my mother, in her home, for several years. She is diabetic, doesn't eat right, and forgets things, including her medication. She falls quite often. I know she needs to be in a nursing home, but long ago I promised that I wouldn't do that. I'm sick with worry. - Torn

Dear Torn:
You know now that a better answer to the "promise you'll never put me in a nursing home" statement is, "I'll always take the best possible care of you, whatever form that takes." Hindsight is wonderful, isn't it? However, even though it feels as though you are breaking a promise, you don't need to feel guilty. You have and are honoring the spirit of your promise. You've taken the best care of her you can, and you will continue to do so, only with help.

It's time to tour nursing homes and ask around for recommendations. Talk with administrators. You will find that most homes these days are much more resident centered than in the past. Your mom's vision of a nursing home, and even yours, may be antiquated. That is not to say that there aren't some bad nursing homes. You must do your research to find the best possible option.

Remember, once she moves, you will be a key member of her care team. She will get her medication on schedule. She will be given a proper diet. Falls should be fewer and help readily available.

Will your mother fight the move? Probably. However, if she is like many elders, she now has little social life. Once she gets settled in the nursing home and gets through her adjustment period, she will find a social life and activities she can enjoy. She'll also feel safer, since she won't be alone.

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Bring as many things as possible from home. Let her know you're a phone call away. Tell her the times she can expect you to visit, and then surprise her (and the staff) with extra visits. Be prepared for some anger and depression. Most people do eventually adjust, however, and many learn to enjoy the care and safety of their new home.

These days, with many choices for meals, activities and much more resident-centered thinking, nursing homes are becoming a safe haven for many who never would have dreamed they'd feel that way. Stick close to your mom through the transition, and remember that you are still caring for her. You've just gotten help. No guilt needed.

Carol Bradley Bursack is the author of a support book on caregiving and runs a Web site supporting caregivers at www.mindingourelders.com . She can be reached at carol@mindingourelders.com .

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