Taking Back My Health When My Mom Moved Out

Caregivers, when was the last time you went to a health appointment for yourself? If you are like me, chances are most of the appointments you attend are for the loved one(s) you are caring for.

It's not easy for us to talk about but I want to approach the sensitive subject of how caregivers are sometimes finally able to take care of their own health when a loved one moves into alternate housing. Let's be honest: It's hard for caregivers to find someone to sit with their person while they are gone even if it is only for an hour, and it is also a stretch for us to think about one more thing. So, we end up neglecting our own health.

When my mom, who has Alzheimer's dementia, moved out of my house and into senior housing, I was able to start focusing on my health again. I have been able to get a needed surgery, train for (and finish!) 2 half-marathons, and work on my mental health.

With limited hours in a day, caregivers push their own needs aside

Caregivers are inclined to put their own needs aside. After all, they have taken on the valiant effort of caring for another person (or people) which often requires giving up opportunities in their own work and personal life.

My mom spent 2 years living with me, my husband, and my 3 young children. I spent many hours driving to and from appointments - doctors, dentists, specialists, testing, therapies. And almost none of them were for me.

I will never regret the time my mom spent living with me in my home. That was the right decision for her at the time and it is an honor to be able to care for her.

But the fact is that there are limited hours in a day, and when needs for kids or my mom came up, those ended up taking priority over my own life. It was usually too overwhelming to try to fit in one more appointment or use up my one slot of free time to exercise.

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Taking back my physical health

We didn't know how long Mom would live with us, but we knew when it was time for a change. Since her move into senior housing, she is happy being around her peers, has made many friends, enjoys the lively activities and services available, and is also safe in an environment designed for seniors.

The move also brought about a lot of changes in my family. A few months after she moved out, I was able to schedule a much-needed surgery for myself that required a long recovery period. I had been putting it off because who would care for my kids and my mom during my rehabilitation? I was also freed up to attend the many follow-up appointments with my surgeon.

I love to run and since Mom moved into her senior home, I have been able to train for and complete 2 half-marathons. Taking care of my health is so important to me. I want to enjoy many years with my children and set a good example of how to take care of our bodies.

Taking back my mental health

Caregivers know living with the person you are caring for can make you feel stuck. Even leaving for a short time period can be extremely difficult to coordinate or you worry that something will happen when you're gone.

I felt all those feelings too when Mom lived with us but I'm grateful that there were options to take care of my mental health. I attended a caregiver support group on Zoom and found a therapist who could do sessions online.

Now that Mom is in her new home, I have been able to attend these groups and appointments in-person without the anxiety of leaving her at home. I know she's safe and happy. I have also had the chance to return to work in an office when my kids are at school. It is enormously rewarding to be doing work I am passionate about again.

Your loved one wants you take care of yourself too

I recognize that I simply was not able to do many of these things while caring for my mom in my home - both logistically and mentally. This is nothing to feel bad about and I applaud caregivers who are in the same boat for all their hard work and sacrifice.

At the same time, I want to encourage others who are dreading a possible move into senior housing. It might work out much better than you and your loved one think, and you might also be able to start caring for yourself again.

And even though our loved one might not be able to say it anymore, I'm guessing they don't want you to kill yourself as a caregiver. They really want you to take care of your health too.

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