Giving up doesn’t mean you are weak; it means you are strong enough to let go.

– Unknown

Making the decision to place someone is probably the most difficult decision a spouse will ever have to make in a lifetime.

I met with a caregiver recently. Her husband, let’s call him Bob, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s more than 15 years ago, when he was in his mid-50s.

His journey has been slow, but now his disease is progressing rapidly. He is no longer able to use the restroom on his own or dress himself, and her day consists of picking up after him constantly.

She is very sad and stressed.

We talked about the possibility of placement in a memory care facility, but she cannot even consider this option now. She said, “I would feel like a failure.”

Bob continues to come to our day care program three days a week, but she knows his time here is limited.

Understand that often families don’t really make the decision to move their loved one into a long-term care facility. Alzheimer’s makes that decision for them.

It is important to recognize the feelings you might be experiencing when considering a new environment. Guilt, self-doubt, grief, anger and depression are common.

Seek out support from friends or join a support group. Memory Matters has groups for men, women, and a general support group. There is no charge for these groups.

Also, understand that people with dementia can flourish in a structured and therapeutic environment. Caregivers have shared with our staff that they notice a significant mood change when their loved ones come to our day program. They are happier.

The same might apply for someone living in a memory care residence. They might experience new feelings of independence.

A spouse who recently placed her husband in a center shared with me that he has a job in the facility. Three times a day he helps people who are in wheelchairs get to the dining room. He has purpose again.

When a family member becomes part of a day care program or is admitted to a care facility, the caregiver often becomes involved with the other families. At Memory Matters, we have families that now go bowling together, go for walks, or cook dinner together.

Caregiving is a rewarding and valuable part of life. But it is okay to gradually return to your own interests and activities. You deserve to live life. Celebrate the care you have given up to this point.

Hilton Head and Bluffton offer so many options for caregivers. Memory Matters is a good start. Come and see us – we can help. Call 843-842-6688 for more information.

Karen Doughtie is assistant director of Memory Matters, serving Bluffton and Hilton Head.