Updated: May 23
Moving a loved one into a long-term care community can be an emotionally challenging experience for both the family members and their loved ones. It’s a significant change that brings forth a range of emotions and challenges and it’s crucial to acknowledge and validate these emotions to create an open and supportive atmosphere. Let's explore seven effective strategies for managing emotions and provide valuable tips to help families navigate this transitional period in a healthy and effective way.
1. Acknowledge and Validate Emotions
When transitioning a loved one into a long-term care community, it’s crucial to recognize and validate the mix of emotions that arise. Sadness, anxiety, guilt, grief, stress, and even relief can be present during this time. These feelings are completely normal and expected, and by openly discussing these emotions, you can foster a supportive atmosphere and ease the emotional burden.
Guilt and grief are among the most challenging feelings caregivers face when moving a loved one into a long-term care community. It’s essential to remember that these reactions stem from the love and care you feel for your loved one. Here are some tips to help overcome guilt and grief:
Know that these are normal reactions that originate in the love and care you feel for your loved one.
Know that it is common to feel conflicting emotions. It’s okay to feel love and anger at the same time.
Reach out for support from those you trust about your grief, guilt, and/or any other emotions you are experiencing surrounding moving your loved one.
If others are against the move, learn about your options and discuss everyone’s views and feelings together or by arranging a meeting with a social worker. (If your loved one lives with Alzheimer’s, you can contact the Alzheimer’s Association to arrange a Care Consultation). If you are unsure if it’s the right time to move your loved one into a long-term care community, learn more about the signs here.
Keep a journal and write down the stressful events you have endured in addition to the proud moments you have experienced throughout the journey of caring for your loved one. Write at least one positive entry each day.
Research information on how to choose a nursing home. Read more about your options and how to choose the right long-term care community here.
After the move:
Accept that your feelings and reactions are normal. Be open with yourself and others about how you feel.
Allow yourself time – these difficult feelings will lessen and pass with time.
Recognize your “new” relationship with your loved one. You will still be your loved one’s caregiver, but others are now available around the clock to help with the physical care and to assure your loved one is safe. You will be your loved one’s voice at their new home and you can make the most of the time you spend with them.
Try not to do everything at once right after the move.
Be intentional in taking the time to do one pleasant thing for yourself every day.
Take action to develop good relations with those who are responsible for your loved one’s physical care.
Only you know how to best deal with negative feelings. Take time to talk to a friend, a counselor, or spiritual leader.
Read more tips here.
2. Establish Communication It’s essential to establish open and effective communication between the family, their loved one, and the care facility staff. This communication not only facilitates the exchange of vital information but also can lead to improved information exchange, increased trust, mutual understanding of expectations and goals, decreased dissonance in the staff-family interactions, and ultimately improved care results for residents. By promoting transparent and frequent communication, everyone involved can work together harmoniously, ensuring your loved one receives the best possible care and support.
3. Create a Home Away from Home Creating a home-like space for your loved one not only helps him or her relax and creates a smoother transition but also helps staff get to know your loved one leading to improved care and connection. You can achieve this by bringing personal items like pictures, stories, and memorabilia. To further foster a connection between the staff and your loved one, bring an “about me” album or document that explains important details such as your loved one’s preferred name, hometown, names of loved ones, work history, hobbies, interests, preferences, favorite music and TV shows, and accomplishments.
Note: Avoid bringing special items that you cannot replace. Consider creating replicas and be sure to label the items.
4. Establish a Routine
A well-structured routine can help provide a sense of stability, predictability, and comfort for your loved one. Daily routines help reduce stress and anxiety because they help everyone involved to know what to expect. Familiarity is especially important for those who live with dementia and having a routine along with familiar activities allows him or her to feel comforted and calm. Daily activities offer many benefits such as alleviating feelings of depression, providing structure, preventing boredom, maintaining his or her identity, fostering socialization, and providing purpose. Collaborating with the facility staff to establish a schedule that incorporates activities your loved one enjoys can greatly contribute to his or her well-being and engagement.
5. Foster Social Connections Social interactions play a vital role in emotional health, mental health, and even physical health. Studies have revealed that people with weak or straining social relations have higher morbidity and mortality than people with strong social relations, and loneliness negatively affects both physical and mental health. Encouraging your loved one to participate in the activities within the care facility is essential, as it offers opportunities for social engagement and companionship. Additionally, encouraging family members and friends to maintain regular contact through visits, phone calls, video chats, and thoughtful gestures like sending letters and care packages can provide a sense of connectedness and support.
6. Prioritize Self-Care for the Family Family members involved in the transition to a long-term care community can often experience a wide range of emotions, including sadness, guilt, and stress. It’s essential to prioritize self-care at this challenging time to ensure well-being. Remember, these feelings are completely normal and it’s important to process these emotions fully. Allow yourself to feel sad, depressed, angry, disappointed, worried, anxious, but also relief, peaceful and calm. However, avoid guilt – you are not responsible for your loved one’s illness or their need for more care. Seeking guidance from counselors and finding support from others going through similar experiences can provide tremendous support. If you think you may be experiencing caregiver burnout, you can learn valuable strategies to manage and prevent it here.
7. Stay Engaged and Advocate
Family involvement remains crucial in ensuring your loved one’s sense of security and receiving quality care within the long-term care community. To help your loved one settle in, visit often in the first two to four weeks because it’s important for him or her to not feel abandoned. As time goes on, you can visit less if you’d like and create a visiting schedule that works for you. Be sure to continuously communicate the needs and desires of your loved one, acting as their advocate throughout the journey and stay well-informed about your loved one’s progress and any changes in the care plan. If concerns or issues arise regarding their care, document and report concerns and problems to staff members involved and report your concern to staff supervisors if the problem isn’t addressed.
Transitioning a loved one into a long-term care community is a significant change that comes with a range of emotions and challenges. Throughout this process, it’s important to remember that your emotions are normal and valid. By acknowledging and validating these emotions, you can create a supportive atmosphere for both your loved one and yourself. Overcoming emotions, especially guilt and grief, is not easy and requires time, but with the help of support and resources, families and their loved ones can navigate this transition in a healthy and effective way.