Nursing Homes

1/4/2022 | By Terri L. Jones

Terri L. Jones, a regular contributor to Seniors Guide, shares her family’s experience after moving her aunt and uncle to a nursing home. If you have family in a nursing home, she says, “The caregiving may be off your shoulders … but not the caring!”

At the beginning of 2021, my aunt and uncle went to live in a nursing home. He had cancer and Alzheimer’s, and she had the beginning stages of vascular dementia and was having some difficulty caring for herself, much less him. Their kids decided a nursing home was the only option.

My aunt and uncle begged to go home. They called their family repeatedly to come and get them. While their children and grandchildren came to see them in the beginning, gradually, out of guilt or not wanting to see them that way, they eventually stopped visiting and even sometimes answering their parents’ calls. Because both my aunt’s and uncle’s short-term memory was compromised, their family figured that they wouldn’t remember their visits anyway.

But they were aware. The two of them were devastatingly lonely. They felt forgotten. They wondered if their kids remembered they even had parents.

A few months into their life in the nursing home, I coincidentally moved to the same town and started visiting them. When the weather was nice, we sat outside under a big, shady tree and talked. I took my aunt her favorite peanut butter cookies and Reese’s cups and my uncle non-alcoholic beer. I showed them pictures of family members on my phone, and we recounted old stories. When they spoke of going home, I listened to them but quickly tried to change the subject.

Since I knew no one else was visiting on a regular basis, I tried to get to the nursing home every week. It wasn’t always the most pleasant experience – with my aunt crying four or five times during my visit and my uncle appearing weaker with each visit. I felt an invisible knife turn in my gut each time I turned to leave. But I knew I’d be back and so did they.

Last week, my beloved aunt passed away from a massive stroke. The heartbreak over feeling abandoned undoubtedly played a part. While my aunt loved seeing me and I was able to provide her some comfort during her final months, I was a poor substitute for the kids and grandkids who were so dear to her, for whom she had cared and sacrificed all her life.

Nursing homes can care for your loved ones physically, but they can’t care for them emotionally. And that’s the care they need most. That’s still your responsibility. While it may feel like a burden now, once you’re “off the hook,” we guarantee that it will feel more like an honor.

Related: “Still Someone” – Being Kind to the Seniors in Our Lives

Related: Six Ways of Caring for Caregiving Staff

Terri L. Jones

Terri L. Jones has been writing educational and informative topics for the senior industry for over ten years, and is a frequent and longtime contributor to Seniors Guide.

Terri Jones