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How to Cope With a Loved One in Nursing Home

by Michelle Leach

There are few decisions in life that are more difficult than deciding to move a family member or friend to a nursing home. The decision impacts not just the person who will be living in the home, but the whole family. The key is acceptance of your loved one's conditions, and the understanding that you are not blame. This knowledge should not be garnered on one's own. Anyone going through this process should have, or create, a strong support network. Read on to learn how to cope with a loved one in a nursing home.

Surround yourself with people who understand and listen to you. Talk through your sadness, guilt and other emotions with those who genuinely care about your situation, and those who make you feel better afterwards, not those who consistently compare your unique situation to their personal situation.

Rely on others to share the load. It can be exhausting spending every moment away from work visiting your loved one in what can be an emotionally-draining atmosphere. Make sure that others are there to help share responsibilities, when you just need some time away, which is another key tip.

Make time for yourself. If you cannot nurture yourself, you will not be mentally, emotionally or, eventually, physically available to nurture you loved one during her time of need, as well as to nurture other family members. Make it a point to take even just 30 minutes each day to devote to something you love, whether it be watching a bad reality show, reading a trashy romance novel or window shopping downtown. You'll get a lot of mileage when it comes to recharging your batteries out of just a short period of time.

Get moving. Stay physically active to keep your spirits up. This can be integrated into your visits with your loved one. Encourage your loved one to take walks with you, or play putt-putt golf. This provides a meaningful bonding moment, as well as added physical benefits for you and your family member.

Seek professional help. There are case managers and eldercare professionals who can help you and your family. They will have a more firm grasp on the specific issues that may be troubling you, such as early symptoms of Alzheimer's.

Participate in support groups. Many health facilities and eldercare communities offer support groups for families of nursing home residents. They usually meet weekly, but those you meet at these gatherings are often a great resource around the clock.

Deal with your guilt. This guilt is a foremost reaction to placing a loved one in a nursing home or eldercare community. Understand that this doesn't mean you don't love that family member or friend, nor does it mean that you are being selfish. Guilt can drive people to all sorts of addictions, from emotional eating and alcohol abuse to other, more overlooked addictions, such as shopping or frequent use of sleep aids . Seek help for yourself if this becomes an issue. Simply recognizing and talking through your guilt can go a long way.

Try to make every day count. Instead of seeing this chapter of your family member's life as a negative or even a symbolic death, focus on all the quality time you will have with your loved one. Your tension and depression is contagious; it will do nothing to improve the mindset or health of your loved one.

Learn from this experience. Evaluate how you want to spend your golden years. If you haven't done so already, consider investing in long-term care insurance to offset the cost of care in your senior years. It will also pay for care in the home, which can ultimately prolong the number of years you can spend in your home. This experience may also shine a light on preventive care and awareness of illnesses which may run in the family, such as Alzheimer's, diabetes and macular degeneration.

About the Author

As a professional journalist and researcher I have written about a variety of topics -- from breaking crime news, to business profiles and features on political figures and everyday people with interesting hobbies. I also authored a 200-page research paper on portrayals of the Maori population in the mainstream New Zealand news media, and contributed to a book on gender and sports. I worked in the writing field in both Australia and England, and traveled extensively throughout Europe and the Asia-Pacific region. Most recently, the bulk of my writing has been business-focused, particularly in the areas of personal finance and industry-specific trends.