Don't Shut Out Your Feelings

It’s okay to take time for yourself to deal with your emotions. You’ve probably only thought about how moving will affect your loved one, without giving any thought to how it’s going to affect you. But when you take time to emotionally prepare, you’ll be a better support system for your loved one during this transition. 

But how do you prepare? To help explain, here’s a scenario that might showcase what you’ll go through as well as some advice on how to navigate it: 

Am I Doing the Right Thing?

After hitting their mid-60s, Martha’s parents decided to retire to an adult golfing community, and they loved the years they spent there. Only a 90-minute drive from family, they would regularly visit with their children and grandchildren. 

But things began to change when Martha’s parents reached their 80s. Martha’s father developed a serious heart condition and some slight memory loss. Martha and her two brothers and sister-in-laws started discussing the future. They wished their parents lived closer. But it wasn’t until their mother was diagnosed with a serious illness, one that required ongoing treatments, that the need for that proximity became essential. 

Everyone was in agreement that a move was necessary. And, while Martha’s parents would have preferred to stay in their home, they understood that they needed to be closer to their children. With the decision made, the adult children went into action. They began to research and visit retirement communities. They looked for one that would be near one of the adult children and landed on a Brookdale community that was a 10-minute drive from Martha. The community felt like home to them immediately, in part due to a view of a golf course. 

Martha was glad that her siblings had been in agreement and had taken on their own roles in the process. But she was dealing with feelings of loss, guilt, and doubt. Were they making the right decision? Should they accommodate their parents request to stay in their home with help? Would her parents make a good transition?


Working Through the Emotions

To help answer these nagging questions Martha reached out to a relative who worked in senior living and here is what she learned:

  1. You are not alone. Reach out to your support system and trust the experts in the field.
  2. Trust that you are doing the very best you can and use this knowledge to erase guilt. Most of us care for an aging loved one once, maybe twice in our lives. There is no dress rehearsal.  
  3. Keep hope alive. There is new life in senior living for your parents or loved one. They will need time to adjust. But don’t give in to the notion that loneliness and depression are the norm for people in their phase of life, and don’t let them give in to it either.
  4. Know what to expect from the senior living community and don’t be afraid to advocate for your parent. You know them best. Reach out to the staff and specifically ask for them to invite your parent to a gathering or take care of a specific need.
  5. It’s OK to feel what you are feeling. There is loss in this journey, feel it and express it — but not to your parent. Talk to siblings, friends, or a professional. In this way you can be there for your parent who is also experiencing loss.

Today, Martha’s parents are adjusting to their new home. They eat dinner with new friends and are slowly finding ways to enjoy their new life. Martha and her siblings are so grateful that her parents are close by so they can visit them often and assist with their health care needs.