Walking Away the First Time

Placing a loved one in an Alzheimer’s facility is one of the most difficult decisions a person can confront.  In this excerpt from our report Caregivers Ask the Expert Dr. Peter Rabins offers his advice at a very difficult moment.

Q. After a series of sometimes-heated family discussions, my daughters and I finally decided to put my wife in an Alzheimer’s facility not too far from my home. Miriam is 77 and they will have room for her next month. In the 48 years of our marriage, we have been separated at night less than a dozen times. I’m afraid that when I bring her to the nursing home I won’t be able to deal with walking away and leaving her there.

I fear for my own mental stability, but even more, I dread to imagine what my dear Miriam will be thinking. I have never cried so much in my life as I have in the past three years since she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. How do other people deal with this tragedy? I feel like I am being flayed alive.

Dr. Rabins replies.  Talk with people at the Alzheimer’s facility. They have been through this before and can probably help you and your wife through this difficult situation. There is no one right way to prepare for such a move. For some people, early preparation and discussion is helpful. For others, especially those with more advanced impairments, early discussion only leads to agitation without the ability to remember and so gain from the discussion.

You may need to talk with a professional yourself. Your distress is understandable and you should know that many other people find this one of the most difficult decisions they ever make. Acknowledging this and getting support is a sign of psychological health, not an admission of weakness. Your getting help will benefit both you and your spouse.

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