All of us make promises to those we love and some of our promises can span the course of a lifetime. There are promises we keep, and promises that as the years go by, we have no choice but to break.
If we made a promise to never put our loved one in a nursing home and now discover we have no other choice, the guilt and heartbreak we feel can be overwhelming. But there are some ways we can cope.
We need to remember that when we made that promise, we based it on the information we had at the time. For example, if our loved one was healthy, active, and of sound mind, the thought of them ever needing to be placed in a nursing home might have seemed ludicrous. Or perhaps we were at the height of our career and money was good and we thought that extra bedroom would work out just fine for mom or dad. Whatever the reason, at the time we made the promise we made it out of love and we based it on the facts and beliefs we held at that moment.
But things change and no matter how hard we wish we didn’t have to make tough decisions or break our promises, life can and does get in the way.
For those who struggle to cope with their decision, or who second guess themselves, or carry their guilt like an anchor tied to their waist, I want you to remember to:
- Be gentle with yourself. You’ve done the very best you can and it is, and always has been, enough.
- Remind yourself. You honored the spirit in which you made the promise. You made it at a time and in a place that is so different from the reality of your world today.
- Trust yourself. Before coming to your decision, you did your research. You learned what you needed to know to make the best choice for your loved one. And you made it. Don’t second guess yourself.
- Allow yourself. You have to give yourself permission to both feel and experience your emotions. It’s okay to cry or to be angry or to feel sad. Let it out and then vow to move forward one day at a time.
- Stop yourself. Don’t let the things you tell yourself in your head, your “self-talk,” bring on unnecessary and un-earned guilt. Shout over that voice and stop it.
- Protect yourself. Limit your exposure to people who question your decision or who make you feel anything less than confident and happy. You have no room in your life for negativity.
- Give yourself. Every day give yourself the gift of time, to focus just on you. You need this time to regroup and get your feet back under you again. It’s a process, not an event. Invest in the process and the time it will take to work through it.
- Forgive yourself. It’s okay. You can do it. You deserve it.No one is watching. Let it go.
Elayne Forgie has spent the last 26 years working directly with patients and families living with Alzheimer’s disease, dementia or other neurocognitive disorders. She has been recognized by Sharecare and Dr. Oz as the #3 Online Influencer for Alzheimer’s disease. She is the founder and CEO of the Alzheimer’s Care Resource Center, a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization dedicated to meeting the unique needs of Alzheimer’s caregivers.