"Would you ever put your mum in a nursing home?" Steve's Story
“Would you ever put your mum in a nursing home?” I was once asked, very tentatively! I think the person who questioned me was surprised by my response; “if mum’s safety was ever compromised or I couldn’t meet her needs of course I would”.
I think the reason I was asked this tentatively was because I wanted to look after my mum in my own home.
Creating the balance was fine until covid hit and mum deteriorated significantly due to episodes of delirium and a fall. It was towards the end of the year I acknowledged that it wasn’t safe for her. Her needs turned our relationship ‘mother and son’ to ‘patient and carer’. Realising you need more help or support can sneak up on you. I only acknowledged it because my family told me!
Being honest with yourself and acknowledging you cannot care for someone you love is very difficult. It takes longer to affirm in your head what you know in your gut.
Ease of transition – mum, me or both?
At the beginning of 2023 mum moved home to a wonderful dementia unit and I agreed ‘shared care’ with the staff. I couldn’t go from looking after her 24/7 to becoming a visitor overnight.
Mum took the move and transition in her stride. There was no dip in function or increase in anxiety and after 8 weeks she is doing very well. In some parts of her life, she is better than when she was at home with me. Contentment was always the goal I tried to achieve at home and now she is settled into the care home.
Settled is not a word you could use for me though. The first night at home without mum, to be completely honest, it felt like she had died. Her chair was empty, no music on and no caring to do. It was hard to know she wasn’t coming back. I didn’t know how I would feel but I wasn’t expecting that.
Over the coming days and weeks despite daily visits and mum being content, the guilt of letting someone else take over her care grew inside of me. I started to doubt whether I had done the right thing. This was especially true when I could go out when I wanted to, without having to arrange care or consider mum’s needs.
Being at home without mum is still very strange. For example, mum always took her night-time medicines at 8.30pm. It took me about 6 weeks not to jump up to get her medicine if I looked at the clock around that time. A habit, I guess.
So is life still strange for me 8 weeks on? Yes.
Do I still feel guilty? Yes. Do I miss her company? Yes. Do I miss providing full-time care? Yes.
Did I make the right decision to move mum? Absolutely.
"Being honest with yourself and acknowledging you cannot care for someone you love is very difficult. It takes longer to affirm in your head what you know in your gut."