Nursing home guilt

Nursing home guilt


your avatar   Kate (48 year-old woman) from Los Angeles, CA.

My mother was diagnosed with Vascular Dementia. I lived next door to her for the past 6 years, and did her grocery shopping, took her to doctors appointments, and even out for lunch or dinner occasionally. My mother lost her hearing, is on a walker, and only has 20% of her sight.

One night she called the police at 2 in the morning and told them I was trying to kill her. A couple of days later she woke me up at 3 a.m. and I ran to her apartment to see what the problem was. She was in her room with a 22 rifle. I took the rifle from her and put it under the bed. She told me to get those homeless people out of her house, that the music was too loud and that they should stop moving her furniture.

I took her to the local hospital and she stayed on a 72-hour watch after much persuasion on my part. Two months later she completely turned on me and told her day-care person to take her to the Holiday Inn and she would write her a $10,000.00 dollar check. This seems strange but at the time my mother could write the check and it would go through. The day-care person came over to get me and told me that my mother had been talking strangely all day. The end result is that I got her to another hospital and they kept her for two and a half months in a Geriatric Psych ward. At the time of the hearing, the court found my mother incompetent.

My brother and I were able to find one of the best Alzheimer's homes in Southern California. Not what I would call great, but one of the better ones we looked at. With medication and a proper diet my mother seems to be doing very well and is mostly in the "here and now." When I go to visit her we have a good 10-minute visit before she gets angry and wants to go home. She is lonely and frustrated with having to be there alone. She calls it a prison.

My brother lives on the East Coast and is the person that my mother set up as executor of her health and her finances, years ago. I don't have any objection as to how he is handling her investments and her care, but he sometimes gets a different picture of how mother is doing and the reality of the situation. My grown son also has a problem with his grandmother being in a "prison" home. But they don't see the situation properly. She is fine as long as someone is getting her medication and monitoring her diet.

Now, the guilt! I feel so guilty about her needing to be there and not with me, or in some other living arrangement. She wants to come home. She has said that she would sit in a corner and not be any trouble. I know differently. She can be "in reality" for a couple of hours, maybe half a day, and then become irrational and get in the way. But then so would I if I were being held against my will.

I am having nightmares and feel very sad, almost depressed. I haven't pursued any activity outside of work for over a year because of this. I've also been angry that my mother did not prepare her life better and choose a place she would have liked to go under such circumstances. But who would have known? I'm struck between taking care of my mother and myself for the rest of her life. I live alone and I am starting to want to have more of a life, but I feel stuck in a chair, somewhat like my mother.

Could you suggest a support group for people in similar situations as me? There's nothing I can do for my mother. My brother is in charge and he is in the east. Help!


    Kenneth A. Weene, Ph.D.

I certainly do recommend a support group. You may want to consult the social worker in the home where your mother is a patient to ask for help in finding one. If you are a member of a religious group, your pastor may also be of help.

Just as importantly, you need to rethink your attitude toward your mother. Vascular degeneration is irreversible and fatal. While she may have moments of lucidity, the situation can only deteriorate over time. You have not placed her in a prison, but in the best care facility you could find. Try to tell yourself that before you go to visit her and when you leave. I suggest that you put a note to remind yourself of these facts in your car.

Go to the library and get some information on her condition and its natural progression. Make that information available to anyone - including your daughter - who questions the current plan or calls the home a prison.

Remember that the members of your family (most likely including yourself) are scared of what may be an inherited disease. Consult a good neurologist about this and try to plan around his/her answer as best you can.

If there is one good reason for you to not feel guilty it is the fact that you must plan your future so as not to put your child(ren) into the same horrible situation you are in.

Finally, pray every day. God loves someone who has given as much as you have and who has tried as hard as you have. God's forgiveness for any guilt you may think you carry is a forgone conclusion. Don't turn your back on that love and forgiveness.

By the way, when you visit your mother, don't let her get on the subject of coming home. Talk about what she would like during your visits. If she continues to talk about the impossible, leave the room for a while. Go to the home's chapel or to your car to pray. After five minutes go back to her. Do this time-out process as often as necessary.

My prayers go out to you,

Ken Weene

This question was answered by Kenneth A. Weene. Ken Weene is a graduate of The Institute For Advance Psychological Studies at Adelphi University is a licensed psychologist practicing on Long Island, New York. His orientation is holistic and eclectic. In addition to a variety of contributions to the professional literature, Dr. Weene has published a number of poems. Before entering private practice, he directed Children, Adolescent, and Family Services for The Counseling Service of The Long Island Council of Churches. Ken's central belief is that life is a gift to be experienced, enjoyed, and celebrated. He knows that this is sometimes difficult in the face of physical, emotional, and other forms of distress and sees his goal as helping people to find their inner peace and joy in the face of stress and anguish.

Emotions are a message. Logic is the means in which we interpret the message.
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