Transitioning loved ones into care
Supporting a loved one through the transition to a care facility is an incredibly difficult task. Whether it’s your parent, relative, in-law or friend, it is a time when all are grieving for the many changes taking place. Not to mention the fear of the unknown – or perhaps fear for the inevitable. This is unquestionably a scary, frustrating, and sad time for all involved.
The carer experience
It’s also a time when you, the carers, tend to push aside your own needs and emotions to deal with the tasks at hand. The tasks can include a hospital admission – unpleasant environments at the best of times; trying to get information you can understand from doctors and nurses – often with understaffed and overworked conditions at play; numerous assessments to ascertain the levels of ability, cognition, and care required for the loved one in question; followed by the arduous task of navigating family meetings and care facility applications.
It’s physically and mentally exhausting… not to mention emotionally draining!
The patient experience
And let’s not forget – the actuality of all this is unfolding for your loved one. While you are of course deeply affected by this situation – the reality of this is transpiring for your parent, your relative, your friend – we can only imagine how it feels for them. For the person in question these processes and decisions can feel as if they are going on around them, are being done ‘to’ them, maybe being done against their will, and are yielding results far from their true desires.
This can be an incredibly scary, frustrating, and distressing time.
Grief and loss
This is grief and loss – for everyone. The patient is likely experiencing loss of ability, role, identity, and independence, to name a few. For you, the carer, it may be the loss of the things you used to do together; the relationship you once had; maybe the future you wished for; or for the person you once knew. You may be feeling this represents the beginning of the end – a confronting and difficult time any way you look at it.
Behaviour and personality changes add to the pain
During this transition, your loved one might exhibit behaviours and emotions you haven’t seen before, particularly if their deteriorating health is affecting their cognition – their level of understanding and reasoning. It is difficult to know how much they truly understand about what’s happening, how much of their behaviour is a result of their condition, or whether it is a reaction to the situation itself. Perhaps it’s a combination of all these things.
Their fear, anger, frustration, and shame can emerge in hurtful ways – emotional outbursts, insults, criticism, and blame. As painful as this is to see and experience, remember these changes are not their choice – what’s happening for them is likely outside of their control. And even if they do still have their wits about them – they are dealing with the loss of who they used to be, what they were once able to do – their independence. Who wouldn’t be angry and upset?!
A time to come together
And let’s not forget, your own emotions are at play here too. So you, or those close to you, may notice changes in your own behaviour as you contend with your own grief and loss process. It’s OK. Be open to hearing other’s observations, and be compassionate towards them and yourself. This is a time to come together and support one another. Take some deep breaths!
So… with this sad and challenging situation on the table, what do you do now?
How do you get through this difficult time?
Try these 9 tips to help you cope when transitioning your loved one into care…
Ask questions – don’t be afraid to ask questions. No question is ever a silly question! You are entitled to know and understand exactly what is happening, and what your loved ones’ needs are, so you can make an informed decision for the most appropriate care.
It’s OK to grieve – understand this is a time of grief and loss for all of you, and that’s OK. Get to know the different emotions and responses that can occur as part of grief and loss so you can be gentle and compassionate towards yourself and others during those fragile moments. And know that it is absolutely OK to seek external support to help you get through.
Your love is not measurable – how much you love and care for the person transitioning to care is not measured by how often you visit, how much time you spend with them, or the choices you must make in their best interests. Go easy on yourself! Your love is unquestionable – it exists despite the circumstances – you do not need to prove yourself or your love to anyone.
Rest is essential – following on from above, you need to be kind to yourself. Get some rest. This process can be a long road so there’s no point exhausting yourself trying to spend countless hours, day in and day out, trying to prove your love, devotion, or trying to be present for every single moment. Treat this as a marathon, not a sprint – slow and steady is what will get you through.
Call on support – to get the rest you need you absolutely need to call on support. It is OK to take a break! You are doing the best thing by yourself and your loved ones by asking for and accepting support – as difficult as that may be. So, whether it’s family, friends, or a professional, please DO reach out for support to help you.
Set boundaries – what is the most you can afford to give of yourself? Knowing your limits, physically, emotionally, even financially, will help you to set clear boundaries. Sit down and seriously consider your own and your family’s health – physical, emotional, financial health. What are you able and willing to give to this situation, and what might be the cost to your physical, emotional, or financial health? Once you are clear on your available resources, you can set boundaries around these limits.
There’s no shame in “No” – once you have set your boundaries you need to stick to them. Be strong and say “no” when necessary. This is essential for self-preservation and sustaining yourself for the long haul. Saying “no” is OK. For you to be as effective and helpful as possible in this situation, you need to maintain your boundaries – this will require saying “no” from time to time.
Set down your guilt – there will undoubtedly be times when you feel guilty about transitioning your loved one into care. This is natural and to be expected. Be aware of your self-talk and remember to be compassionate towards yourself – it is not just your loved one who deserves compassion at this time. You are doing what is in the best interest for their care and well-being, so set down your guilt and remind yourself you are doing the right thing.
You are doing your best – YOU REALLY ARE! This is hard – and at times you may feel like you simply can’t go on. This is exactly the time to look back at this list, arrange some support so you can take a break, and get some rest.
Revisit your boundaries – are you protecting them? Are you sticking within your limits? Do you need to be saying “no” a little more? Are you being too hard on yourself – expecting more of yourself than you can afford to give?
Set down your guilt, show yourself some compassion, give yourself permission to grieve, and know that you are doing the best you can.
CARING FOR YOURSELF IS CRITICAL TO AVOID FATIGUE AND BURNOUT.
BEFORE YOU CAN BE THERE FOR OTHERS, YOU MUST FIRST BE THERE FOR YOURSELF.
I hope you find these tips helpful if you are transitioning a loved one into care.
Download your FREE copy of these 9 tips as an printable graphic here.
For additional information about grief and loss, you can find more details here.
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