How can I visit my aunt in a nursing home without crying?

2 answers | Last updated: Sep 14, 2017
A fellow caregiver asked...

My aunt is in a nursing home with cancer and does not have long to live. My mother goes to see her several times a week and wants me to go. I have a hard time going to see her in the condition she is in. All I do when I go there is cry. I don't want my aunt to see me this way considering it is not helpful to her declining condition and I want to try and keep a positive attitude for her.

I don't like the care she receives in the nursing home either. If I were her daughter I would have rather had her stay at home with hospice, but she has already taken over her mother's house and converted her bedroom.

My aunt is lonely and in pain. I can't see her like that because it hurts too much. I have tried to explain this to my mother and she doesn't seem to understand. I want to see her but how do I keep from crying and deal with this before and after? And how do I deal with the emotions of anger at how the nursing home and her own daughter are treating her?

Community Answers

Ginny2k answered...

My situation is not exactly like yours, but has its similarities. I had a very rough bout with breast cancer with mets several years ago. After the bilateral mastectomy there were 7 other surgeries to deal with complications. Then I broke my back while I was undergoing radiation treatments, right after I had finished my chemo. Definitely a tough time.

Some people never visited, some didn't call. They said they didn't know what to say; some said they thought I needed my strength to fight my fight.

A visit from any of those folks would have meant so much to me and to my overall feelings of strength and wellness, because giving of your time, even if I don't have the strength to speak but only to listen, shows how very much you care. What I valued more than anything was the human touch, the company of others to help me try to forget some of my own problems for a little while.

No, she's not your mother. You have no control over how things are at her home and you can only make polite requests to the staff where she is. You need to learn to let go of those things you cannot control

I think you're judging her daughter much too harshly. There may well be more to that than you're aware of and you can't know everything she has to deal with without living in her shoes.

Besides, how will your aunt ever know you're keeping a positive attitude for her if you're not there? If I were making judgments, I would think you were just too busy or didn't care if you didn't visit. Why can't you plan to make each visit a rejoicing of her life? Recall funny memories; bring old pictures to reminisce over together. If she sees your tears, her only concern will be that you're hurting. Let her comfort you. It will help you both. Your presence so far outweighs any contraindication you imagine your tears could present

Think about what you said here: "My aunt is lonely and in pain. I can't see her like that because it hurts too much." Who are you really thinking about?

Handiann answered...

I agree with Ginny. You'll feel much better in the long run if you go and deal with your own emotions. Putting it off or avoiding it all together will only make your fear get stronger. Go and cry the first time you go. You'll stop crying after a while and be able to talk to your aunt or just sit with her and hold her hand, or whatever feels right in the moment. If I were your aunt, I'd rather have people there crying, who showed me they cared, than be by myself as I approach my end.

Seeing someone you love in pain is never easy for anyone...suck it up and go visit her! In the years to come, you'll be glad you did. I'm 59 and it took me a long time to learn this life lesson. And I've heard from too many friends who regret what they DIDN'T do for loved ones when they could.