Ask Abbie: How to make difficult decision concerning loved one

Published 10:55 am Saturday, September 1, 2012

by Abbie Long

Question: Recently my family had to make a very difficult decision for my grandmother.

We decided to move her from her home to a nursing home. She needs 24-hour care, sometimes requiring two caregivers at once. If one caregiver happens to be late or absent the problems get worse.

My grandmother is very resistant to move. She has very good mental capacity and is well aware of what is going on.

What is the best way for us to ease this transition? Everyone seems upset.

Answer: Congratulations on doing the best you know to do for your grandmother at this time.

Your family must rid itself of any internalized guilt about your decision to gain the needed emotional confidence for this transition. Should anyone doubt your family’s decision, always remember you are doing the best you know to insure your grandmother’s safety and well-being.

One fall or one missed medication and your grandmother’s health could be thrust into a downward speeding spiral. This is a responsibility your family should not have to bear.

Approach your grandmother by saying “we are concerned about you grandma.” This statement alone automatically transfers any problem your grandmother may be putting upon herself regarding her move onto you and the family.

According to statistics, nine out of ten parents and grandparents don’t want to burden their children or grandchildren. As you convince your grandmother this long-term care transition is her idea, one that will actually help her family, you are also giving her a sense of control over the situation.

You must strive to assure your grandmother feels in control throughout every second of this move. As people age they increasingly lose control of their physical, mental and social abilities and begin to feel very helpless, hopeless and scared. Imagine how you would feel.

Involve your grandmother in decisions and options when at all possible to assist her need for control.

Also make sure your grandmother takes mementos of her home with her to lessen her feelings of helplessness and separation. For example, the perfectly worn remote control with the numbers missing, that special perfume you always associate with grandma, or maybe even the beautiful curtains that hung in a special room of her house.

The words “nursing home” evoke a wall of resistance in your grandmother’s mind. It is very good that you and your family have already discussed moving to a nursing home with her because early and open discussions can ease the sting of the idea.

It is now time, however, to change the language of nursing home to “long-term care facility.” This name sounds more loving and gentle and subtly brings less negativity and resentment to the surface when spoken.

Next, since your grandmother is coherent and mentally alert, have her select the appropriate person to be granted her power of attorney if she has not already. This person will have responsibility for decisions regarding your grandmother’s major financial and health issues.

Another very important issue is to assemble a team of caregivers for your grandmother. Each member accepts responsibility to take turns visiting and supporting her, and sharing the honor of treating her like the special lady she is.

This team should be led by the person with power of attorney and comprised of agreeing family and friends. Even one team member in opposition to an issue or to a decision could cause tension and arguing.

Any negative energy amongst your grandmother’s caregivers will likely further burden your already emotionally-laden grandmother. Save this drama for another outlet, for one that hasn’t given each of you great amounts of blessings and support over the years.

My sincere desire is for not only your grandmother but many other mothers and grandmothers to read the poem I wrote and realize just as they did the best they knew to do to raise each of their children; we are doing the best we know to do for them in their time of need.

The care and concern you’ve so graciously sacrificed;
Never wanting for return a single day of your beautiful life.
Although your gifts to us can never be replaced through adequate appreciation;
They will always wrap around our hearts in memories and anticipation.
With such expectancy we await to honor you and to endeavor;
Upon a quest to give back in return, with every ounce our vim and vigor.
Your family loves you so deep and so true;
All the gifts you have given, we now attempt to bestow back to you.
Even if we don’t always agree or understand;
We shall forever stand with outstretched hand.
We love you grandma

Abbie Long is a Franklin native and advice columnist for The Tidewater News. Submit your questions to