When a parent first enters assisted living, their children often feel wracked with guilt. Does your loved one feel abandoned to a strange place? Could you have made in-home care or another arrangement that would allow them to live with family work?
First, think about yourself. This may seem like the wrong advice right now – my parent needs me! – but we’ve all heard that we need to take care of ourselves before we can take can of anyone else. You most likely have other obligations that you cannot let go: work commitments, caring for children, maintaining a good relationship with your spouse. Your parent is important, but so are these other parts of your life. You need to make sure that the time you spend with your parent doesn’t result in neglecting other vital relationships and needs.
Second, think hard about what your parent really wants. Some seniors get comfortable in their new home, sometimes sooner rather than later, and are so busy enjoying new friends and what the facility has to offer that they don’t need or want you to visit everyday. Have a conversation with your parent about visiting if you think they still have the mental capacity for a productive discussion, or observe them carefully to get a sense of how much they really want you there. Even if they’re not social butterflies and seem to spend a lot of time in their room, they may prefer the alone time, and it’s possible that too frequent visits may make them feel less independent.
Especially when a senior is experiencing cognitive decline, you may need to separate what they say from what they really want and need. If mom calls to ask why you never visit her three hours after you were there, it’s likely that this has nothing to do with how dutiful a child you are. She may have simply forgotten how often you’ve been coming to see her! Be careful about taking her remarks personally.
A final consideration in deciding how often to visit is how you will feel about your efforts as a caregiver after your parent has passed away. If, after considering what’s possible and the other things in your life, you think you will be comfortable with how much time you spent with your parent, you have probably found a good balance. However, if you think you may have regrets, increase your visiting schedule now while you still can.