What to Do When You Promised a Loved One That You Would Provide Them With Caregiving at Home

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We’d all like to think we can provide the kind of care that the older adults in our lives deserve. The kind that’s given at home, in a familiar environment, surrounded by the people and things they know and love. In fact, home care may soon be the future for the delivery of medical services and other essentials for older adults.1

However, sometimes performing caregiving at home simply isn’t possible for you to do alone. And although your loved one may have difficulty with the idea of moving to a different environment (such as a nursing home), you may still feel like you’re out of options. So how do you look them in the eye and tell them that you won’t be able to keep a promise you thought you would?

Ditch the Guilt

First things first: do not feel guilty2 if you do have to break this particular promise. Although you should certainly approach your loved one with an air of regret, do not allow these feelings to paralyze you. In all likelihood, you made the promise in good faith. You genuinely thought this was a challenge you could handle, but sometimes circumstances change. Blaming yourself (or letting others trap you in a cycle of blame) will do your loved one absolutely no good, and may even negatively affect your own health.

Explain Your Reasoning

Of course, your loved one is likely to be upset when you break the news. Try to find a quiet moment when they’re relaxed and calm to tell them. If possible, explain your reasoning. For instance, you may not have enough energy or hours in the day to help them the way you’d like. This is not only a matter of convenience and life balance for you; it may be the best thing for your loved one’s health, comfort, safety, and well-being.

When you promised to provide homecare, your loved one’s medical needs may have been very different than what they are presently. For instance, if they have developed diabetes, they may need continuing wound care that’s best addressed by a visiting nurse. If they’ve suffered a stroke, they could require round-the-clock supervision that’s not feasible for you to do alone. At best, these are tasks you may perform inadequately. At worst, attempting to do so can seriously endanger your loved one. Try to state this without them causing unnecessary alarm and explain that this decision comes from a place of deep concern for them.

Explore Alternatives

Just because you can’t provide caregiving at home doesn’t mean your loved one can’t receive it. It may simply mean that a different (but trustworthy) individual will be looking after them. Don’t give up hope of keeping your promise before you’ve looked into all the options. One option is to share caregiving duties with friends, neighbors, and family members.

Another possibility is to hire a professional home health aide. In fact, Medicaid, veterans’ benefits, and certain other state and federal programs may cover such services. Even if they don’t, a few hours of week of help may be enough to keep your loved one in their own home as they age. You can even retain an aide to stay with them overnight if that is the time you most worry about them being alone.

Start a Discussion about Caregiving at Home

If you realize that you won’t be able to keep your promise to your loved one when it comes to their care, you both may be confused about your next step. It’s possible that you don’t realize what all the options are or that you have questions regarding what happens if your loved one’s needs change. One thing you can do is talk the situation over with a qualified home health agency or geriatric care manager. Once you have all the information, you and your loved one will be able to make the best possible decision about caregiving at home.

If you are unsure of how to best help an aging loved one, the trained and compassionate staff at the Institute on Aging is here to help you make that decision and gain the best in at-home care for older adults. Contact us to find out more.

Show 2 footnotes

  1. “The Future of Healthcare Delivery is in the Home,” February 26, 2013, https://healthcare.dmagazine.com/2013/02/26/the-future-of-health-care-delivery-is-in-the-home/
  2. “Eight Tips to Managing Caregiver Guilt,” https://caregiver.com/articles/caregiver/managing_caregiver_guilt.htm
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