After realizing home care was no longer working well, you invest your time into finding a great memory care community. Your wife of 50 years whose dementia diagnosis has overshadowed much of your last few years together has transitioned seamlessly. In fact, she ignores you as she interacts with the program and with her new friends. Do you walk out euphoric? Relieved? Research shows No.
Post placement blues are real. After fifty years together, sharing space and conversation has come to an end. Dementia changed your relationship drastically, but until yesterday you still woke up to the love of your life, even though her familiar personality and mannerisms had changed with her diagnosis.
Studies shows family caregivers often experience increased depression, anxiety and chronic grief after placing a loved one in long-term care.1 Even physically, the caregiver may experience changes with a placement. One study showed kidney function changes for family members with hypertension who had recently placed their loved one.2 Research analyzing this phenomenon by gender and role found wives and daughters were more likely to experience clinically persistent burden and husbands were more likely to experience clinically significant depression after long-term care placement.3
Sadly, post-placement blues are often not recognized by friends or family members. They see how much simpler life is for you, they are no longer worried for your health, but they mistakenly think you feel only relief.
Your caregiving role has changed, yet you still care. You grieve the loss of presence, the loss of what once felt like the perfect relationship. Research suggests that along with the best memory care community, we need to anticipate the need for coaching and guidance after placement.4 You will experience bereavement, a restructuring of life and the need for a renewed sense of purpose.
You will need to seek informed psychosocial support from professionals through support groups, memory café groups, and online resources. Studies have shown caregiver satisfaction in both online group interventions for family caregivers who have placed as well as one-on-one coaching and counseling.5,6 At Arden Courts, the Executive Director and Resident Services Coordinator are part of your transition team along with the community’s caregiver support group or memory café events. Ask about family nights and look for opportunities to meet other family caregivers. Their experience will help you as you transition.
Placing your loved one in a quality memory care community optimizes your loved one’s quality of life and yours. But your journey has changed the first day of placement. The work is not over. Self-care includes putting together a transition team of experienced support to deal with the next steps in your journey.
1Paun, O., Cothran, F. 2018. Chronic Grief Management: A Live-Streaming Video, Group-Based Intervention for Family Caregivers of Individuals With Dementia in Long-Term Care. Journal of Psychosocial Nursing and Mental Health Services, 1-7.
2von Känel, R., Mausbach, B.T., Dimsdale ,J.E., et al. 2012. Effect of chronic dementia caregiving and major transitions in the caregiving situation on kidney function: a longitudinal study. Psychosomatic Medicine, 74(2): 214-20.
3Gaugler, J.E., Mittelman, M.S., Hepburn, K., Newcomer, R. 2010. Clinically significant changes in burden and depression among dementia caregivers following nursing home admission. Boston Medical Center Medicine, 8: 85P.
4Mamier, I., Winslow, B.W. 2014. Divergent views of placement decision-making: a qualitative case study. Issues in Mental Health Nursing, 35(1): 13-20.
5Gaugler, J.E., Reese, M., Sauld, J. 2015. A Pilot Evaluation of Psychosocial Support for Family Caregivers of Relatives with Dementia in Long-Term Care: The Residential Care Transition Module. Research in Gerontologic Nursing, 8(4): 161-72.
By-line: Cate McCarty, PhD, ADC has been collaborating with Arden Courts in a variety of roles since the late 90’s. Her background in nursing, activities and admissions has given her a passionate commitment to quality of life for the individual and family with dementia. Dr. Cate’s husband is living with dementia of the Alzheimer’s type.