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In admitting a family member into a long-term care facility, you may be faced with the guilty feeling that you have let that person down. Even though you may have spent a long time trying to cope with caring for the loved one yourself and know that this is the only way to go, negative thoughts can still persist.

Be assured that these feelings are very common and that you are not alone. Nearly every family in your position experiences some challenging emotions which may include guilt, anxiety, or even anger at having to take responsibility for making the placement decision. These are understandable reactions. And there are positive ways to deal with them:

  1. Talking over your problems with other families who have been in the same situation can be helpful. They understand your difficulties and may have good advice to offer. In addition, you may want to seek counsel of the facility's social service worker whose job is to listen to your concerns and answer your questions.
  2. Respond to invitations to contribute to your loved one's care by helping at mealtime or accompanying the resident to an activity. Such caring participation makes family members feel more needed and lessens the sense of frustration or guilt.
  3. When appropriate, the transition may be made easier for the new resident and family by a clergy member, who can provide spiritual guidance and support.
  4. It is very important to keep the lines of communication open with the staff and the facility. Don't be afraid to ask questions about the facility's routines and practices. This strategy will ensure your peace of mind about your loved one's care.
  5. Ask the facility's social services director about support groups for families, held either at the facility or in the community. These groups are a great way to meet others who have had undergone similar situations in placing a loved one in a facility.
  6. Family members who live far away from the facility should be encouraged to make phone calls and send letters to the resident. Sending audio and videocassettes is an especially good way to keep your loved one in touch.
  7. Promote a home-like atmosphere for your loved one's room by bringing in meaningful objects such as artwork, a favorite quilt, awards, or photos…items that emphasize the person's uniqueness and personality.
  8. Make visits meaningful by bringing along children, pets, or meaningful objects that reflect your loved one's interests and background. Consider talking to the activity director about creative ideas for making visits to the facility enjoyable for everyone involved. Click here for ideas on making the most of your visit.

Making a long-term care placement is not an easy move for you or your loved one. But don't let it cause you to be unjustly critical of the facility or tough on yourself. Especially, don't let it keep you from maintaining a close and supportive bond with the person whose interests you feel are best being served by taking this step. By becoming actively involved in facility life, you will be able to minimize any negative feelings you may have about this life transition.