You have noticed your mum is becoming increasingly frail and confused. She moved in with your family soon after your dad passed away a few years ago, and at first it was great. Sure, she never totally got used to not having dad around, but she was still the compassionate, vibrant mum who made the kitchen smell absolutely wonderful, most particularly when she made her famous apple pie. You loved the intergenerational chatter at the dinner table almost every night, and looked on your family with pride. 


But over the past year mum’s personal care needs and forgetfulness have been increasing at an alarming rate. At first the transformation was so slow you hardly noticed it, but now that ‘pleasant’ confusion is hard to miss. The conversations are gone, and the once wonderful aroma from the kitchen comes from your efforts, not hers. Mum spends her days quietly sitting around the house, and reluctant to leave for those family outings she once looked so forward to.  You are becoming more concerned about her withdrawal and feel an increasing need to keep an even closer eye on her.  


You are reminded of the conversation you had with your doctor a few weeks ago. She was understanding, but strident in telling you she was not sure how much longer you should keep caring for your mum this way, because your own health was deteriorating. This was not good for you, your mum, or your family. Her advice happened to mirror that of your mum’s doctor, whom you both visited only last week and who told you in confidence that he thought it might be time to be thinking of placing your mum in an aged care home.


Today, you are exhausted, and overwhelmed with sadness and guilt that has become your constant companion, knowing an agonising decision has to be finally made.


At least two of your friends have recently spoken of similar decisions about their own parents. They shared their own feelings of guilt when faced with the realisation that their parents now required specialised care in a safe and secured environment. But, for both friends equally, they are on the other side now, and  their parents have settled in well to their new routines and surroundings. They see their parents frequently, either visiting them or bringing them back to the family home for lunch or stay over the weekend, and now focus on talking, loving and memory making. They also assured you that your feelings of ‘daughterly’ guilt would slowly move on.


Still, YOU promised YOUR mum you would always take care of her! But now her night time wandering has become a safety issue. You, your family and your mum were only last night put at risk by her turning on the gas stove. Can you ever sleep again? What are the options?


It would be so nice to be able to hire round the clock care. You imagine a little room beside your mum’s where a wonderfully adept and jolly woman would care for mum all day, following her around to make sure everyone was safe. But in reality, this is just not possible for financial and other reasons.


You can’t believe you are really thinking of this, but is it time to place mum in an aged care home? Can you really place your mum in one of “those places”?  


Just the thought sends gut-wrenching guilt into the pit of your stomach. How in the world would you explain this to mum? How would you explain it to the rest of the family, or deal with the self-judgment that is already creeping in just thinking about it? Yes, your friends felt it was a good decision for their families, but this is about yours.


What can you do to ease the stress and guilt that comes along with even thinking about such a decision? The first thing you can do research. At Property Focus in Sydney we know that you will need to identity and evaluate options, and that is our specialty. In addition to offering sound real estate advice, we are a network of experienced professionals here to assist in all aspects of the transition to senior living.  Our experience and understanding of this complex landscape allows us to offer focused advice which is sensitive to your particular situation.


If you think one or both of your parents might need to move into an aged care home, we cannot encourage you enough to start your research now, before a crisis requires a snap decision. Talk with family, friends and experts. Visit facilities. And, of course, talk with your mum or dad.


And be prepared for possible resistance from your parent(s) and maybe even some family members. Change does not come easily for most people. Give them time to understand, and talk about the guilt you all might share because most of us have vowed at one time or another that we would “never” place our parents in an aged care home.


Once an informed decision is made to move your parent into aged care, you can at least feel confident you have picked an aged care home that best suits their needs. And remember:


Aged care placement is not abandonment. Your parent(s) are and always will be your parent, and you will visit them often, along with friends and other family members. As a resident they are not prisoners. If able, they come to your home for family gatherings and the like. They have some of their precious belongings in their room, and the staff is aware of the full, and wonderful life they have led. You are also confident your parent is receiving the very best of care in a safe environment. Staff knows your mum or dad is loved and they are not alone.


You must take care of the caregiver. That caregiver is you, and if you do not take care of your exhaustion, stress, and guilt, you will not be able to care for anyone. It is “parenting 101,” and definitely applies when caring for your own parents. Eat well and sleep well. Talk with friends about your parent(s), but talk about other things as well. This decision is a part of your life, but does not define you. Make sure it now has an appropriate place in your daily thoughts, and does not take them over as they once did.


There is still time for some great memory-making. Try to embrace a positive look to the future. Help relieve everyone’s stress by making new and great memories. Get creative with this. Let the visits to your parent(s) new home or their visits to yours have some unique qualities that make you laugh and love and just happy that you are all around still to share in each other’s lives.  


You are most definitely not alone. As you walk down the street, many of the people you see quite probably are going through or have been through the same emotions you are dealing with.


The decision to place a parent in an aged care home is often tough and stressful, and laden with guilt. But you are making this decision from a well-informed position, and it is made from a place of love. It’s important not to wallow in negative emotions, and know that life is not over. A new phase is beginning, and you all have control over just how you want to live it.


At Property Focus in Sydney we know of many a family who moved from the guilt of this decision to one where the whole family is flourishing once again. Gone is the resentment and the exhaustion, only to be replaced by the joy of the visits to mum’s new home and hers to yours. And we can imagine a new family tradition for the daughter in the story we started with here: when mum comes to their home for a visit, the whole family chips in to help her make her famous apple pie, filling your home with that wonderful aroma once again.