"Promise you won't …"
May 8, 2017
The request that every child dreads: “Promise you won’t put me in a nursing home.” The loving child in you wants to give them a soothing response: “Of course. Never.” But pause and think this through first.
There is no way you can predict the future, your loved one’s needs or your own abilities and health. Your loved one might eventually require 24/7 care. For instance, they may lose all mobility and need to be lifted out of bed or require injections or IV medical treatment.
In advanced dementia your parent may require full-time supervision, even through the night. Can you promise to provide that?
The root of this request is usually fear: fear of lingering in pain, of being alone in an institution, of potential indignities and loss of independence.
To promise “never” is to set you up for guilty feelings, even when you’re doing what is best for your parent! Instead, try to reassure your loved one:
• “We’re a team, and that’s our goal: to keep you at home. If it turns out you need other care, I will make sure you are safe and comfortable.”
• “Let’s talk about your priorities and wishes when we know more about what you actually need to stay healthy and safe. I want to ensure that things go to your liking in every way that I can.”
If you have already made a promise, talk to your parent. It is not too late to talk about things and it is better than feeling guilty later. Select a quiet time, maybe shortly after a doctor’s visit. Acknowledge to them the potential for the unforeseen and restate your commitment to ensure their care and comfort regardless of the circumstances.