My Wife is in a Nursing Home- Now What Do I Do with All This Free Time?


Q. My wife has dementia, and your firm recently helped us qualify for Medicaid. At first, I never thought it would be possible, but it was, and I am forever grateful for your assistance. She is now in a nursing home, and seems content and I am happy with the services she is being provided thus far. I know she is in the right place for her at this time, but I am having a hard time getting used to the transition. It’s very different being all by myself, after 50 years of marriage, and ten years of being her full-time caregiver.

I visit my wife every day at the nursing home, but it’s honestly beginning to wear on me. I want her to know that she is loved, and I want to continue to read her books, but our son could tell I am stressed and recently suggested that I go home and take some time for myself.

I’ve never had this much time for myself, as I’m used to helping her with everything. Do you have any ideas of what I can do to help with the transition? Also, what do seniors in Fairfax do with their “me time” to avoid getting bored and depressed?

A. For family members caring for a relative with dementia in the community, the transition of nursing home placement may be difficult to get used to at first. Besides no longer being a full-time caregiver, you need to get used to transitioning to an empty nest, and figure out how to keep busy and feel healthy, happy, social, and fulfilled in your life.

A five-year study recently examined the effect of long-term care placement on 180 community-dwelling dementia caregivers, and it provides us with some interesting findings. Family caregivers were assessed both before and after their relative was placed in a long-term care facility to determine the impact of this transition on the caregivers.   Although 80%-90% of the family caregivers reported adequate satisfaction with the care in the placement facility, findings from the study show that most, if now all, had a difficult time transitioning from their prior roles, as follows:

  • Those who were caregivers to a spouse remained highly involved with their relatives following admission to a long-term care facility. Following placement, about half of spousal caregivers visited daily and an additional 45% reported at least weekly visits.
  • Among non-spousal family caregivers, a quarter visited daily and an additional two-thirds reported weekly visits.
  • The majority of the caregivers visited their relatives on a regular basis and performed tasks similar to those carried out when the care recipient was living at home, such as managing money, arranging medical care and transportation, and providing social support, when there was not as much need to do so!

According to the National Institute of Nursing Research of the NIH, using interactive, Web-based videos developed by Fox Learning Systems, Inc. ( and skills training in mood management, family members can gain the knowledge and skills needed to cope with this transition.

Knowledge of the long-term care systems can aid families during this difficult period. Getting this information to families can be a challenge.  Recently, The Rite Aid Drug Store Chain has launched a national caregiving campaign using videos supplied by Fox Learning Systems. Facilities can use the Rite Aid Giving Care for Parents site as a great educational tool in learning more about clinical, legal and financial concerns. The educational videos are free to the public.

What to Do When You Have Time for Yourself

A big part of making everyday life easier for yourself is establishing a daily routine of activities to keep busy and engaged. Once you get to know which activities are of interest and enjoyable, you will hopefully be enjoying the time that you have for yourself! Below are some links that may interest you!

  • Fairfax County Adult & CommunityEducation– Sign up for a class and learn something new! Fairfax County residents 62 years of age or older may opt for a 25 percent tuition discount!
  • Fairfax County Adult Sports Team Directory– Play a sport and want to join a local team? There is a Golden Girls softball team in Fairfax, and lots of other opportunities inother sports!
  • Center Without Walls– In Burke and West Springfield, programming focuses primarily on exercise and fitness for older adults, including Tai Chi and Zumba classes. In other parts of the county, programming includessocial gatherings and continuing education for older adults, including technology workshops, trips, current events discussions and guest speakers/lecturers on a variety of topics.
  • Chronic Disease Management Program-This program offersworkshops that areheld at senior centers, churches, libraries, and hospitals throughout the county.
  • Creative Aging (Video)
  • Everyday Yoga for Mature Adults(Video)
  • JCC of Northern Virginia Adult Services-The Adult Services Department at the JCC offers social and self-development programs and activities for adults of all ages. Subject areas include cultural activities, such as films, concerts, and lectures; Judaic programs, such as Hebrew and Yiddish language classes; outreach programming for adults 55+; and, social activities such as day trips and theatre outings.
  • Fairfax Libraries – 50 and BetterMore than 200 adult events are offered each month including author talks, wellness activities, reading programs, writers groups, lectures, crafting and technology workshops. Pick up an events calendar or read it online tosee what events are planned each month.
  • Fairfax Parks and Recreation– Sign up for hundreds of classes, events, and programs throughout Fairfax County:

Park Authority – 50+

Parktakes – Classes

Day Trips and Tours

Rec Centers

  • Pets and Older Adults(Video)
  • Fairfax Senior Centers– Fairfax Senior Centers are recreation centers for adults ages 50 and over. Hundreds of active older adults from around the county have become registered members of the county’s network of Senior Centers to pursue hobbies, fitness goals, special interests (such as art, music, and technology), friendships and enjoy a wide variety of activities with their peers. Center programs and activities are as diverse as the needs and interests of the communities they serve. Meals and transportation options are also available (eligibility and fees apply)
  • Fairfax Supportive Services for Older Adults-Supportive services for older adults enables seniors with minor cognitive and physical disabilities to actively participate in the day-to-day activities atFairfax County Senior Centers. The program is provided in partnership with ServiceSource – a local non-profit organization with extensive background in supporting older adults and adults with disabilities.
  • Stroke Club
  • Fairfax Therapeutic Recreation-Fairfax Therapeutic Recreation offers services, education and resources to meet the needs of participants and assist them on the road toward lifelong participation and enjoyment in recreation and leisure activities. Staff also providessupport and advocacy to individuals who wish to participate in general recreation activities.

Volunteer with . . .

Make Connections

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For more details about these services in the Rockville area, in DC, in Fredericksburg, or elsewhere, be sure to visit your local Agency on Aging website. Also, be sure to check with your religious institution for guidance, activities, and support services. Meetup is another excellent resource for get togethers with like-minded folks. Join a Meetup group! There are thousands at or on their App.

Visit Your Wife and Plan for Yourself!

While you are busy doing all of the activities this area has to offer for seniors, don’t forget to visit your wife! 🙂 She may have dementia, but she knows you are there, and I am sure she knows she is loved by you!

It is also always prudent to plan ahead for yourself — including the need tomake updates to your own estate planning and long-term care planning documents. Now that your wife is on Medicaid, we need to plan in the event you wind up needing nursing home care in the future. Please be sure to come in as soon as possible for your follow up consultation:

Fairfax Elder Law: 703-691-1888

Fredericksburg Elder Law: 540-479-1435

Rockville Elder Law: 301-519-8041

DC Elder Law: 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.

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