Facing the reality of grief when a loved one enters a Long-Term Care Home
So you did your homework, completed your research, and compared the long-term-care homes checklists in the desired area. The wait list has been opened and now it is truly a matter of waiting. Perhaps there is anxious anticipation as the care needs of your loved one are starting to exceed the supports in place.
Perhaps there are significant memory issues and an ongoing sense of unrest that you are simply treading water to provide the added care needed. Perhaps there is an underlying illness or frailty that is cause for concern.
As the days pass, and suddenly the call is received; the realization truly hits “home” that there is a long-term care bed ready and waiting.
There may be an absolute sigh of relief accompanied by an overwhelming sense of sadness and grief. In spite of the need, this choice will rewrite history and lives will change.
The individual entering the home will be subject to new faces, a new environment, and new care supports. Part of their new frame of reference, or sense of self will be identified as a Resident in the long-term care home community.
If there is a Caregiver (spouse, significant other) left behind, the reality may be a loss of their identity and feelings of purpose.
I cannot emphasize enough the importance of caring for the caregiver through this transition period. They are facing a tremendous life change, and it is common to feel the same emotions as a person who is grieving.
Healing and recovery for the life partner left at home requires time, care and understanding.
Now is the time for the extended family to create an action plan to smooth the transition for the loved one left behind.
Transport: Help with the transportation to the LTC home if the spouse cannot manage independently. Plan in advance.
Team work: Commit to dates on the calendar and leave them for the caregiver, so there is a sense of control, knowing that someone will be coming to visit, have dinner, aid in chores, or help with transportation or shopping.
Time: Promises are for keeping. If you commit to spending time with the caregiver in their home: keep your promise. This is a time of adjustment, and knowing there are people around to count on reduces anxiety.
Talk less, listen more: Be supportive, don’t discount the need to express grief. Although this journey may have been long anticipated, it never truly feels real until the loved one enters a Long-Term care home.