February blog: Promises we can’t always keep
The decision to move a loved one into a long-term care facility will be one of the hardest decisions you make, especially if you’ve made the promise to keep your loved one at home. It is not uncommon for a loved one say, “Promise me you will never put me away” or “always keep me at home with you.” It is a hard request to deny, and often this request leads to a hasty promise.
Promises are made with the best intentions; an effort to avoid upsetting a loved one, waiting for the perfect time to have this difficult discussion, an attempt to protect or comfort your loved one from an uncomfortable situation, or to avoid feelings of self-reproach. It is easier to make a promise than to accept the feelings of guilt that accompany this decision.
But remember, not all promises can be kept. Life is unpredictable, circumstances change, and we don’t know what the future holds. Making promises can give both you and your loved one a false sense of hope. There may come a time, despite your earlier promise, when their needs or your needs are greater than you can handle, and you need to consider long-term care. We may get to a point where the day-in, day-out care becomes too much. Often at this point, feelings of resentment and anger toward your loved one creep in. This is a sign of a life imbalance. It's not a healthy situation for either of you.
When we make a promise to our loved one that we will never put them in long-term care, we also have made a promise to ourselves. And even if our loved one is unable to remember that promise – we always will. We feel we are not only letting our loved one down but letting ourselves down. That somehow, if we had worked a little harder or loved a little more or had more energy, we wouldn’t be at this crossroads. Situations change; you need to accept that change does not mean failure.
How do you decide what’s best for your loved one, for you, and for the rest of your family? If a promise was made, how do we know that the best decision is to admit that the promise cannot be kept?
The physical safety of both you and your loved is first and foremost. If we cannot keep our loved ones or ourselves safe, we need to revise our plans.
Emotionally, it is taxing to care for another person, especially as they become more and more dependent on you as they age or as their disease progresses. These demands can create feelings of isolation, depression and anxiety in you. When you have more sad, resentful days than content and manageable days, something needs to change. We need to find the line between thriving and just surviving.
If you placed your loved one in a long-term care facility because you could no longer provide for their well-being without sacrificing your own physical and mental health, it is time to STOP judging yourself. You tried, but the promise could not be kept. You must trust yourself with the decision you made, knowing that your loved one's health and safety and your own health and safety are most important. Guilt is an unwelcomed, undeserved, wasted emotion. Do not put energy into it!
Acknowledge you did your best in a difficult situation. You identified and researched facilities that will meet the needs of your loved one. You’ve reassured them they will not be alone on this journey and that you will be with them every step of the way. You are not abandoning them!
Each caregiving situation is unique. A caregiving situation that is acceptable and workable for one person may not be for another. You need to consider what is best for your loved one, your family and yourself. As a caregiver, you are the only one who knows the answer to that. Be careful of what you promise.
Stay healthy, stay well, stay connected,