When my father died of cancer three years ago, my 82-year-old mother, like many of her age, put on a brave front. Her health wasn’t great—she’d had hip replacement surgery and walked with a walker—but she convinced my brother and me that she was well, that she didn’t need our aid, and that she didn’t want to leave the home she’d lived in for 30 years.
It was evident after a few months that she wasn’t doing well. Her mood seemed to be low, and she was having increasing difficulty walking about the home and caring for herself.
My brother and I both had demanding occupations and traveled often, but we thought that by splitting responsibilities, we could care for Mom ourselves. However, as her health deteriorated, this proved impossible, and after a number of late-night crises, it was evident that she need 24-hour care.
We had to make the painful choice to place Mom in a nursing home since her deterioration had been steady. Those whose elderly parents suffer a sudden shock or significant sickness may be forced to relocate, leaving little space for hand-wringing and regret about the choice.
But simply broaching the subject of sending Mom to a nursing home was loaded with shame and grief for us. Following that, the choice required days of deliberation, study, and consultation with geriatric care specialists.
In the end, we were fortunate that Mom was healthy and coherent enough to participate in the choice. We were able to make the process simpler for her while also relieving our own guilt by sharing our thoughts with her, listening to her worries, and talking to her about her emotions.
Even once she warmed up to the idea of transferring into a nursing home, it took us weeks to find the right facility for her. First, my brother and I visited many nursing facilities in the region, speaking with administrators and family members of patients to obtain a sense of the residents’ quality of life. When we’d limited it down to a few alternatives, we invited Mom to see them, and we discussed our options over dinner that night.
The nursing facility we chose provided everything Mom needed. The personnel were incredible—extremely nice and attentive. The rooms were large and well-appointed. There was a garden for people to enjoy, and there was even a chapel down the street.
After the difficult transition phase, which my brother and I made a point of visiting on a regular basis, Mom settled in, found friends, and was soon happy than she’d been since before Dad died.
We couldn’t be happier with our choice three years later. The shame we felt at the time was understandable, but Mom is much better off today than she would have been if she had lived alone in her previous home. The nursing home employees, physicians, and residents have become like a second family to her. She’s also joyful and, despite her health difficulties, as healthy as she can be. She would be the first to tell you that placing your elderly parent in a nursing facility is not a sin.