Is it possible the nursing home made my mother's Alzheimer's worse?

A fellow caregiver asked...

My mom passed away about 3 months ago she had Alzheimer's and she lived with me until she had to go to a nursing home she was only in a nursing home for a couple of weeks till she passed away. I feel so bad that she had to go there, is it possible being there made her Alzheimer's worse?

Expert Answer

Audrey Wuerl, RN, BSN, PHN, is education coordinator for Hospice of San Joaquin in California. She is also a geriatric trainer for the End-of-Life Nursing Education Consortium (ELNEC), which promotes education in geriatric nursing and end-of-life care.

You are to be commended for caring for your mom for as long as you did. But, I would not feel bad for placing her in a nursing and think they may have made her "Alzheimer's worse."

Alzheimer's disease is a progressive dementia that is ultimately terminal. As you probably know, there are many stages to the disease. Behavioral problems"”combativeness, inability to care for their own needs, and wandering (to name a few) are reasons family eventually place their loved ones in nursing homes. Hospice care would have been helpful in supporting your mom (and you) in the nursing home setting by explaining the changes that were occurring, the "whys" for these changes, and by providing a peaceful closure.

Often we hear "horror stories" about care received in nursing homes. I expect most of it is exaggerated. My experience has been that although most of us want to be in our own home, this is not always possible. And the nursing homes I am familiar with really do try to give the best care they can. Further, nursing homes have what we call ombudsmen who are individuals from county agencies who serve as advocates for the patient. In other words, they speak for the patient even if they can't speak for themselves. They make sure patients receive proper care in these settings.

Try to concentrate on all the good things you were able to provide for your mom"”staying in your home, receiving care and love from you, maintaining her dignity"”and not dwell of the "what ifs." Try to celebrate her life, and know, you did the very best you could.