Making an Elder Care Decision: How will I Get Over the Guilt?

Posted by: The Bristal

Dear Maryellen, 

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My wife and I recently moved my 83 year old mother to a memory care assisted living program. It’s been tough. When Dad was dying, I promised him I would take care of Mom. She was diagnosed with early stage Alzheimer’s less than a year after his death. My wife and I have tried to keep her safe at home, but we just couldn’t do it anymore. We both work full-time and have teenagers living at home. Mom wandered away multiple times. The last time she was gone for over 5 hours in the frigid winter before we found her on a bench at a local park. We knew we couldn’t keep her safe any longer.

We chose an assisted living community with a memory care program that got high reviews on state surveys and on review websites. We visited the community on multiple occasions at different times of day and night like we were advised. It seems as if they are doing a good job with her, but is so hard to visit her there and have her tell us each time that she wants to go home with us. How will I Get Over the Guilt?

– Bob in Lake Grove, NY

Dear Bob,

Alzheimer’s disease is a difficult journey for families. It is often referred to as “the long goodbye.” Guilt is a very common emotion for loved ones to feel during this time.

Many adult children make promises like the one you made to your father. You promised your father that you would take care of your mother and you are. When you recognized you couldn’t keep her safe, you found a community with a memory care program that can. You made an informed decision.

Wandering is a common and dangerous behavior for people living with Alzheimer’s disease. You were lucky in finding your mother after 5 hours. Statistics on wandering are frightening. According to the Alzheimer’s Association if someone who wanders isn’t found in the first 24 hours, they only have a 50% chance of survival.

What might help you during this transition is to join a family support group. It will give you the opportunity to talk with others who have a loved one living with Alzheimer’s disease. If you can’t find time in your schedule for an in-person meeting, there are many available online. The Alzheimer’s Association Online Support page can help you connect with a group in your area.

I hope this helps you and your family, Bob.

Best Regards,



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