Answers to your questions about caregiving
Q: My mother needs to be placed in a nursing home, but refuses to go. What can I do to convince her that this is necessary?
First, it depends on whether or not your mother has dementia. If she does not have dementia, you might not be able to do anything to make her go. Sometimes this is the hardest thing to do—letting someone make a “bad” decision. However, if your mother does not go into the nursing home, it does not mean you have to provide all the care. It is okay to tell her what you can and cannot handle. If finances are available, one option is to hire a home care attendant either privately or through a home care agency.
If there are not funds available for this, you might need to use the doctor, nurse or social worker to talk to her about her care needs. Sometimes your best choice is to call Adult Protective Services and tell them that you cannot provide the care and that your mother won’t go into a nursing home. They can work with you and her so that she is not abandoned nor are you liable for neglecting her.
If your mother does have dementia, it is a different situation. Since people with dementia often have trouble making decisions and often cannot make rational decisions, trying to “convince” her will probably fail. You might need to apply for a conservatorship in order to have the authority to make decisions for her. Again, working with the physician might help. The doctor could write a “prescription” for her, which can work due to the power of his position and also makes him the “heavy” and not you. If someone has been in the hospital, it is a natural transition time. I would encourage you to have her discharged directly to the nursing home at that time. If your mother does not come home first, it is easier to deal with placement in a facility.
It is hard to know what to say or not say when placing a loved one. Sometimes it is best to give the person a lot of advance notice, get them involved in choosing what they want to bring with them, and participate in choosing the facility. For others, however, knowing what is going to happen just produces a lot of anxiety and makes it harder for the person to adjust. In this case, it is often better to not say anything until the move actually happens. Making up a story can sometimes help, such as saying it is just until you get back in town from a trip.
Finally, it is very important to take care of yourself. Placing a loved one in a nursing home is always a difficult decision; it is common to feel guilty. We encourage you to think in terms of regret instead of guilt; e.g., it is unfortunate that placement has to happen (regret), but you have not done something wrong (guilt) by placing her, and have likely made the best decision both for you and your loved one. It’s especially important to get support from family, friends, support groups, your religious community or another source.
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