I met with a family who was interested in learning more about the best way to help their Mom move into a senior community. I got a call from the daughter after the consultation and she said "I just feel so bad about pushing my mom into moving." I asked what specifically she felt "bad" about. She explained she knew it would be hard for her mom to leave her home. The daughter had been making daily trips to her mother's home to help her with small daily tasks, but it was clear that her mother needed more than the daughter could provide. I said, "Ohhhh, so you're feeling guilty." I don't know anyone quite more skilled in providing lessons on guilt than our own mothers. I suspect someday they will find a guilt gene.
Like stress, guilt can be positive and motivate us to do better, but it can also cause unwarranted anxiety and an endless array of sentences that start with "I should have...".
Here are a few tips on dealing with that guilt:
- First, ask yourself, have I done what I can reasonably do? In this case, the daughter had done everything she could.
- If I continue on this current path will it cause harm to me, my elder, or my family? If the daughter had continued her daily trips, knowing her mother needed more care, it would have been her mother's safety and quality of life that would have suffered. Imagine the guilt the daughter would have felt if her mother would have ended up hurt!
- Is it reasonable for me to have the expertise in senior housing, long term care insurance, real estate, Medicare or Medicaid to provide assistance to my elder? Unless you're a REALTOR specializing in seniors, an elder law attorney, licensed social worker, the answer is no!
- List all of your current responsibilities and the people in your life that count on you. Ask a close friend to look at your list to see if it seems reasonable, or if it seems you are taking on more than most people. A source of guilt can come from our own unrealistic expectations of what we can accomplish in a day and still pay attention to our own health. The daughter was a 57 year old woman who was working full time, taking care of two teenage children (and their activities), a volunteer, a wife, a sister, and trying to take care of an aging parent. Talk about a plate that's just too full!
As someone who's grappling with the guilt of moving an elder, ask yourself. Would I rather feel a little guilty now and know my elder is safe or would I rather wait until some harm comes to my elder because we didn't act.