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When mum moved into 'care' she lost her mojo. Can we help?

This is a very common response as it’s a big event and can be overwhelming.

Moving to a new home, even in the best of times is well recognised as being a stressful event.

Moving to a care home however often comes at a time when the person is feeling quite fragile e.g., following the death of a spouse/partner (who might have been their caregiver) or experiencing a decline in their own health. This may be further complicated by any negative experiences they have had of visiting a care home in the past and/or reports they know of incidents of poor care and even abuse (despite these being isolated).

We shouldn’t be surprised then that an older person moving into a residential care home could be experiencing a range of emotions such as:

  • bewilderment/confusion, a sense of being overwhelmed e.g. by the process leading up to the event
  • powerlessness
  • resignation
  • grief associated with multiple losses e.g. home, neighbours, pets, control over their lives, the death of a spouse
  • nervousness about leaving the familiar and facing the unfamiliar
  • worry about a potential loss of privacy
  • anger e.g. about the financial situation, particularly the inability in some instances to pass on the ‘fruit of their hard work’ to their children

When people are overwhelmed, or if their declining health is such that they are less able to make decisions for themselves, they may ask others to make decisions for them. This can create problems later as they may feel resentful that they did not make the decision themselves or they may blame others if they are unhappy with the home they now live in. Care, therefore, needs to be taken to ensure that the person is as involved as possible in the decision-making process and that decisions that are made, are consistent with what it is understood the person would have made for themselves, had they been able.

Depression may also complicate thing. It is a common complaint of older people and often goes unrecognised. It is important to seek help from a health professional if depression is suspected or if ‘low mood’ continues.

If you understand these things, you are in a better position to be empathetic and to be able to support your parent. Give your mother time to adjust to these feelings, allow her to talk about them (without you needing to comment), help her make her new home her own, encourage her to take one day at a time and help her to see the positive things in her future.

In time most people settle into their new home, become more interested and involved in their new environment and feel reassured by the support and care they now have.

Updated: 15 Jun 2022
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