Care homes: Dealing with your emotions

Advice and practical tips for carers on dealing with emotions when moving a person with dementia to a care home.

For many people, thinking about whether someone should move into a care home is one of the most difficult things they’ve had to do as a carer. You’re likely to feel a wide range of emotions that can be hard to deal with and can affect your decision.

Some people will feel that moving into a care home is the right thing to do, but for others, feelings of guilt or loss might make it hard to think clearly and be objective. It can be harder if the decision to move into care has to be made in a rush (for example, if the person has been admitted to hospital and can’t be discharged home).

It’s important to learn to deal with these emotions, and not let them get in the way of doing the right thing for the person with dementia. The suggestions on the following page may help.

Tips for carers: Dealing with your emotions

  • Remember, there is no right or wrong way to feel. You will experience your own feelings in your own way.
  • Whatever you decide, you are doing what you think is best for the person.
  • If you decide the person does need to move into a care home, remind yourself that they will be getting the care they need to help them to live well.
  • Accept that you are human and there is only so much you can do. The person would want you to take care of yourself as well.
  • You don't stop being a carer just because you no longer do the practical day-to-day tasks. You will still be able to be involved in the person’s care if you want to be.
  • Talking to other people who are going through, or have been through the same thing can help. It may help you to know that what you’re feeling is normal, and to hear from others about how they dealt with this difficult situation.
  • Talking Point, our online community, is a good place to share your experiences and talk to people in a similar situation.
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After the person has moved into a care home

Once the person has moved, you may feel a strong sense of loss – not just of the person, but also your relationship with them, your role as a carer and your plans for the future. These feelings can be very strong if the person with dementia is your partner or has been living with you. You may feel that you have lost your sense of purpose. You might be unsure what role you will play in the person’s care. It can take time to adjust.

You may miss the person and find yourself struggling to know what to do now that you are no longer responsible for their day-to-day care. Building a good relationship with the care home can help with this. You may feel lonely and isolated at home without them, and find it difficult to find a new role for yourself, or to pick up past interests or relationships. It is okay to feel like this, and in time it may start to get easier.

You may feel guilty about the situation or that you have let the person down. You may feel that you should be able to do more or cope better. You may worry about how the person will settle in, and whether the care they receive will be good enough. These feelings can be complicated if your family or culture has strong views on how people should be cared for, or if other people disagree with the decision. All of this may contribute to increased feelings of guilt and sadness, even if you know the decision was in the person’s best interests.

You may also experience more positive feelings as well. You might be relieved that the person is getting the care they need and that they are safe. You may feel relieved that you are able to take care of yourself and focus on your needs or on those of other people in your life.

It is important to know that these feelings are all normal, and lots of other carers and family members feel the same. The following tips may help.

Tips for carers: After the person has moved into a care home

  • Talking is often the first step to dealing with your emotions. It may seem like a small thing, but it can make you feel less isolated and stressed, and it can help to put things in perspective. If you don’t have someone you can talk to, try Talking Point.
  • Support groups are a great source of information and are likely to offer you the chance to discuss how you are feeling with people in a similar situation. Find support near you.
  • If you still want to be involved in caring for the person, speak to the care home staff. Let them know how involved you would like to be and discuss how you can work together. It can help to think of ways you can support the person, such as telling the care home about their life history and interests and making sure staff know what the person likes and dislikes.
  • You may want to focus on having an enjoyable time with the person and spend your time together doing things you enjoy such as listening to music, going through photo albums or playing games.
  • Ask the care home if they have a group for family and friends of residents. Get involved with this or other activities in the home, such as special celebrations or events (for example, if they have a barbeque in summer). If not you could try talking to a support organisation such as Relatives and Residents Association (see ‘Other useful organisations’).
  • If you find yourself becoming depressed, it’s important that you seek support. Start by contacting your GP. There are a range of therapies that may be beneficial. For more information see our factsheets 'Apathy, depression and anxiety', and 'Talking therapies' (including counselling, psychotherapy and CBT).
  • You could also try talking things over with other people, such as friends It can help to be prepared for this situation, and talk to the person with dementia about it as early as possible. It can help to know how they feel about a move – for example, it may be reassuring for you to know that you’re doing what they would want you to do. This can make the decision slightly easier when the time comes.