Being Shamed for Your Nursing Home Decision

This past weekend, Kathryn hosted a graduation party for her daughter and was excited to spend time with the family and friends that came to celebrate. For the past few years, she hadn’t had much time to visit with friends or family with all of the caregiving duties she had for her mother, who suffers from Alzheimer’s. Now that her mother has moved into a nursing home, Kathryn could feel more comfortable shifting her attention to other things.

After consulting with her sister and planning for the costs of her mother’s long-term care, Kathryn felt as if she made the best decision for her mother. As her mother’s memory was getting worse to a point that she could no longer live safely at home, Kathryn made peace with her decision to move her mother to a nursing home. Kathryn now makes it a point to visit and spend quality time with her mother at least once or twice a week, and her mother seems to be adjusting well.

All seemed well until Kathryn’s aunt (her mother’s sister) arrived with her cousins, and they made it known that they disagreed with the nursing home decision and shamed Kathryn for “being selfish and lazy” and for wanting to “get rid of the burden” of her mother. Although the decision was a tough one and Kathryn felt it was the right thing to do, all the shaming made her doubt and second-guess herself.

Why Do Family Members Shame Their Loved Ones?

Some family members thrive on making others feel guilty and even shameful for not doing things the way they claim they would have done them. Many adult children suffer from such guilt and feelings of shame if their parents are cared for by professionals instead of themselves, hearing comments such as: “your parents took care of you as a child, now it is your turn to care for them.”

As you can imagine, decisions regarding senior care are not easily made and certainly should not be shamed by others who wrongly assume they know what is best. Below, I will share with you some things to keep in mind so you can be confident in your choices as a caregiver, and to help you ignore any shaming that you hear regarding your nursing home decision.

Things to Keep in Perspective if You’re Being Shamed

No matter what your friends or relatives have to say, remember that they are not the ones caring for your loved one and that they likely have absolutely no idea what it is like to take care of him or her. Although it would be very nice if everyone could take care of their aging and infirmed family members at home forever, this is just not possible for most families, especially when loved ones have debilitating diseases such as Alzheimer’s. Here are some other things to keep in mind:

1. Remember What’s Important: Sometimes the most loving thing you can do for a family member with Alzheimer’s is to have a professional step in and care for the parent in ways in which you are not able. The most important thing is that your parent receives the best care in the most ideal setting for his or her situation, and that he or she maintains the best quality of life possible.

2. You are Not Being Selfish or Less Compassionate: Choosing to move a loved one into a care community is a personal decision, and it is typically made to help a loved one receive more skilled care when it’s needed. If someone’s parent is receiving professional care instead of family care, that certainly does not make them selfish or less compassionate.

3. You Can Only Do So Much: Taking care of an adult with Alzheimer’s at home is particularly difficult. People with Alzheimer’s often have trouble remembering facts, following directions, or understanding risks. They may wander and could be in danger of falling or getting hurt. As the disease progresses, the best alternative is often a place that is equipped to handle the needs and safety concerns of your loved one.

4. No One Knows What It’s Like to Be in Your Shoes: No matter what the shamers have to say, they are not the ones caring for your loved one. They didn’t live with him or her every single day, and they haven’t been watching his or her Alzheimer’s progress and his or her falls become more frequent. Remember this when they say shameful things and try not to let what they say affect you.

5. You Haven’t Failed or Abandoned Your Loved One: Moving a loved one to a nursing home doesn’t mean that you’ve failed to take care of them. It means you’re making the decision to get them the level of care they need. You can still spend as much time with them as you can, talk frequently with the staff, and manage their overall care. You are taking good care of your loved one and you certainly haven’t abandoned them.

6. Care Communities Are Not Bad Places: Most care communities are clean, state-of-the-art buildings that offer social activities and outings. Choosing to move a loved one into skilled nursing should no longer be a worst-case scenario. Often, it’s the best-case scenario for aging adults and their families who want their loved one to be cared for appropriately and safely.

7. Times Have Changed: A couple of generations ago when people didn’t live as long, families were more likely to care for their parents at home. Thanks to modern medicine, even those with Alzheimer’s can live many years past their diagnoses. But caring for them at home becomes increasingly difficult as cognition and self-care skills worsen. Safety of the patients and of other family members can also become a factor.

8. Shamers may be Bullies: Shaming and bullying share many similar traits. The psychological scars of both shaming and bullying can be deep and lasting. If you’re a target of shaming or bullying you may feel like lashing out, turning your aggression on those who hurt you and anyone who you feel condoned the pain. If you’re someone reading this who has participated in shaming, make it a point to tell the victim you’re sorry. A sincere apology can go a long way towards mending a broken friendship or family tie.

Medicaid Asset Protection (Even When Someone is Already in a Nursing Home)

Are you a caregiver for a loved one with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia, and the care they need is more than you can provide at home? Regardless of what discontented relatives have to say, do right by your loved one and find an appropriate setting where he or she will get the care needed.

Persons with Alzheimer’s and their families face special legal and financial needs. At the Farr Law Firm, we are dedicated to easing the financial and emotional burden on those suffering from dementia and their loved ones. We help protect the family’s hard-earned assets while maintaining your loved one’s comfort, dignity, and quality of life by ensuring eligibility for critical government benefits such as Medicaid and Veterans Aid and Attendance. If you have a loved one who is suffering from Alzheimer’s or any other type of dementia (even if they are already in a nursing home), please call us as soon as possible to make an appointment for an initial consultation:

Elder Care Fairfax: 703-691-1888
Elder Care Fredericksburg: 540-479-1435
Elder Care Rockville: 301-519-8041
Elder Care DC: 202-587-2797

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About Evan H Farr, CELA, CAP

Evan H. Farr is a 4-time Best-Selling author in the field of Elder Law and Estate Planning. In addition to being one of approximately 500 Certified Elder Law Attorneys in the Country, Evan is one of approximately 100 members of the Council of Advanced Practitioners of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys and is a Charter Member of the Academy of Special Needs Planners.