‘The Promise’

Guest Column
Leann Herman
Monticello Nursing & Rehab Campus

In the world of care giving, oftentimes, promises are made that are almost impossible to keep. If you are a caregiver, you may have been faced with a plea from your loved one to make “The Promise.” Promise you will never — 

Put him/her in a nursing home 

Bring strangers into the house to care for him/her 

Sell his/her house 

Spend money on care that was supposed to be your inheritance 

The Promise most likely originates from Americans (those born before 1940) who saw their parents and grandparents in nursing homes that were not well regulated. Others read over-sensationalized media reports of abuse and neglect from in-home providers. Feelings of guilt and fear are reasons some caregivers make The Promise. When an older loved one asks for something, we try to honor their request out of love, obligation, and respect for their wishes. If your loved one is asking you to make The Promise, it is easy to say yes without fully understanding the challenges of caregiving, especially if it turns into an extended period of time. Maybe you could care for your loved one for a few months, but what if it turns into 11 months, two years, or five years? How will this impact you, your family, your relationships, your work, your finances, your mental health, and your physical health? The Family Caregiver Alliance National Center on Caregiving reports that caregivers have higher levels of depression, stress, and anxiety; have an increased risk of heart disease; and have lower levels of self-care. Keeping The Promise under any circumstance can lead caregivers to make sacrifices that are not in their own best interest, their families best interest, or even the best interest of their older loved one. The individual receiving care may feel guilty or feel that they are a burden to their family. Oftentimes, the older person who wishes to age at home becomes socially isolated. The National Institute on Aging reports that social isolation and loneliness is linked to higher risks for high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, anxiety, and depression, cognitive decline, and Alzheimer’s disease. 

The goal in caregiving is to provide the best possible care for your loved one while respecting your own limits and boundaries. If you are confronted with a loved one asking you to make The Promise, respond carefully. Try something like, “I will try to keep you home as long as you are safe.” Encourage your loved one to consider options and visit your local assisted living center or nursing home. Look at their activity schedule and menus. Talk with residents, staff, and family members who have experience in long-term care. As caregivers, be open minded rather than replying that you promised your mom you would never do that. Examine your own beliefs, fears, and uncertainties and seek out individuals who can offer guidance and support. As your loved one ages, continue to evaluate their changing needs, what your own limitations are, and be honest about what is really best for all parties involved. 

For more information on senior care, contact Leann at Monticello Nursing and Rehab at 319-465-5415.


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