When my father passed away from cancer three years ago, my 82-year-old mother, typical of her generation, put up a brave front. Her health wasn’t great—she’d had a hip replacement surgery and used a walker to get around—but she assured my brother and me that she was fine, that she didn’t need our help, and that she didn’t want to move out of the house where she’d lived for 30 years.
Within a few months, it was clear that she wasn’t doing well. Her mood seemed down, and she was having more and more trouble getting around the house and caring for herself.
Both my brother and I had busy careers and traveled a lot, but we felt that by sharing duties we could take care of Mom ourselves. But as her health continued to decline, this became difficult and, after a couple of late-night emergencies, it was clear that she needed 24-hour care.
Our decision to put Mom in a nursing home was most difficult because her decline had been gradual. For those whose elderly parents’ face a sudden trauma or serious illness, the move often becomes necessary, which for the family leaves less room for hand-wringing and guilt over the decision.
For us, though, to even breach the topic of moving Mom to a nursing home was fraught with guilt and pain. After that, the decision itself involved days of discussion, research, and talking to elderly care professionals.
In the end, we were lucky that Mom was healthy and lucid enough to take an active part in the decision. By sharing our ideas with her, listening to her concerns, and talking to her about her feelings, we were able to make the process easier on her while also assuaging our own guilt.
Once she had warmed up to the idea of moving into a nursing home, it still took us weeks to settle upon the proper place for her. First, my brother and I toured several nursing homes throughout the area, spoke to administrators and family members of residents, and tried to get a feel of the residents’ quality of life. Then, when we’d narrowed it down to a few options, we brought Mom to see them, and that night we discussed our options over dinner.
The nursing home we settled upon had everything Mom needed. The workers were amazing—dazzlingly friendly and attentive. The rooms were spacious and well-equipped. There was a garden for the residents to stroll through, and there was even a church down the block.
After the emotional transition period, during which my brother and I had made sure to visit daily, Mom settled in, made friends, and was soon happier than she’d been since before Dad passed away.
Three years on, we could not be happier about our decision. The guilt we felt at the time was natural, but there’s no doubt that Mom is now much better off than if she were living alone in her old house. The workers, doctors, and residents at the nursing home have become like a second family to her. Plus, she’s happy and, given her health issues, as healthy as can be. She would be the first to tell you that there is no shame in putting your elderly parent in a nursing home.