Senior Living Guilt: Tips for Feeling Better About Moving a Loved One to Assisted Living or Memory Care

Senior living guilt tips to feel better about moving a loved one

When a loved one needs assistance with daily tasks or requires increased attention and care while living with dementia, a family may struggle to find the best solution.

Choosing the right assisted living or memory care community can be a challenge. But confidence in your decision can increase by talking with family, friends or the medical team for a referral – and visiting communities to see for yourself the quality care your loved one will receive.

However, even families who take extraordinary care to ensure their loved one is safe and secure can still find themselves facing a problem not easily resolved: senior living guilt.

Unfortunately, a carefully considered decision driven by necessity, love and concern can still leave many adult children feeling guilty.

What is senior living guilt?

Senior living guilt can arise from a family’s need to make arrangements for their loved one to move into an assisted living or memory care community.

These feelings typically result from misguided beliefs regarding your role in caring for those who cared for you, such as:

  • your loved one’s care should be your sole responsibility
  • there was an implied promise that you would always provide the care
  • you have failed as a child and caregiver if you need help

Why is senior living guilt so common?

Senior living guilt is not rational. It doesn’t take into account that your loved one needs more help than you can provide. You may be raising your own family, working at a career or possibly dealing with your own health issues.

Guilt can arise from feeling that the roles of parent and child have been reversed. If parents expressed their desire not to move into a community, you may believe you are trespassing on their wishes.

Guilt can also increase for those who may feel they’re being negatively judged for making this decision, even by those who have no actual knowledge of the particular situation. And for family members who feel relief due to the weight of worry lifting from their shoulders, feelings of remorse can quickly surface.

Download our complimentary guide Choosing the Right Senior Living Community: A Step by Step Guide for Making an Informed Decision.

How to address senior living guilt

Consider taking these steps if you’re feeling senior living guilt. Being straightforward and truthful with yourself and the situation is the first step.

1. Be honest about the alternatives

You may feel guilty about parents moving to a community, but ask yourself about the quality of life if they remain at home. There is often increased risk – to safety and health – if needed care isn’t available.

2. Accept that your feelings aren’t a mirror of reality

We often take our feelings as proof of a situation. Although feeling guilty can make us uncomfortable, it’s not a reflection that our decision was wrong. Senior living guilt isn’t fair because you are actually making sure they have the best care.

3. Remain an active part of their lives

In providing the best care for a parent, you are not relinquishing your role of loving family member. Visits, phone calls and video time will let them know you are still a part of their lives – and help you deal with your senior living guilt.

4. Remember the benefits

There were likely several reasons that your parent needed assistance. Remember the benefits that a community provides and how they’ll meet the challenges your loved one is facing.

5. Enjoy the small victories

Let yourself feel better about even small improvements. Perhaps your loved one has met someone to share a story with, finally eating healthily, or you’re able to sleep through the night knowing they are safe.

6. Accept that change takes time

Allow time for your loved one and yourself to make the adjustment. Change can be a challenge for everyone and it takes time to begin feeling comfortable. Your guilt will subside as your loved one becomes more contented.

7. Ask for support

This can be a difficult decision to make and it’s harder if you’re making it alone. Are there other family members or friends who can support you and provide encouragement? Talk to the medical team for reassurance and search for groups who have experienced this life event.

8. Reach out for professional help

If your senior living guilt isn’t lessening with time, senior living communities have several resources as well as suggestions to help families with the transition. If more help is needed, consider speaking to a therapist to work through these feelings.

Discover life at a Northbridge community.

If you’re considering senior living for yourself or a family member, we hope you’ll visit one of our communities. You’ll find a maintenance-free, activity-filled and engaging lifestyle to help support your wellness goals.

You’ll also discover many benefits in a Northbridge Senior Living community, including our Signature Program S.T.A.R. Club (Sharp Thinking, Active Residents) – which offers our residents several activities to participate in with others, including:

  • Daily exercise group
  • Walking club
  • Tai Chi & yoga
  • Nutritional classes
  • Library and book club
  • Museum outings
  • Artists in residence program
  • Multi-generational music
  • Genealogy Generations

We’re here to answer any of your questions. Please contact us if we can provide further information or if you would like to schedule a personalized tour. Download our complimentary guide Choosing the Right Senior Living Community: A Step by Step Guide for Making an Informed Decision.


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