1. Don't look upon the nursing home placement as being the end of your caregiving journey, instead, think of it as the beginning of a new phase of caregiving. Transitions are difficult, and there will be challenges.
2. For a time, your loved one will need you more than before. This is temporary, but the time commitment needs to be accepted and not viewed as something unusual. The nursing home administrator told me that the average time for patients and families to adjust to their "new normal" is three to six months.
3. You'll need to be a patient advocate in the same way that hospital patients need someone who knows them well to serve as a liaison between doctors, staff, and patient. There will be miscommunications, there will be upsets, and there will be a learning curve for those providing care for your patient. Be kind, be patient, and be present.
4. Show up at different times of day. If possible, eat a meal in the home's dining room with your patient once or twice a week. Observe your loved one's reactions to various situations, and don't be afraid to make suggestions.
5. Recognize that the challenges of this transition are temporary, and that you and your loved one are headed toward a more comfortable time.
6. Couch any concerns in encouraging comments about positive things you've noticed.
7. As a caregiver, allow yourself to grieve. My emotions upon driving away from the nursing home after we'd settled Mom in her room that first day were remarkably similar to how I felt when we left our kids at their college dorms. Don't let people tell you that you shouldn't feel sorrow. Honor your years of service to your loved one, be much in prayer, and inquire of the Lord about how to release your loved one into the care of others (more about this next post).My mother has been in the nursing home four months now, and the stresses of those first difficult days are beginning to ease for us. Although Mom is in the late/middle (or early end) stage of Alzheimer's, she has adapted to her new environment and is no longer calling my name every few minutes as she did at first. The staff has gotten to know her, and I now feel comfortable missing a day or two of visits as necessary.
Here's lovely song by Matthew West entitled Only Grace that describes the emotions of this new phase of my life as a caregiver. Give it a listen if you have time--I hope it ministers to you as it has to me.
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