Guilt and healing when moving a loved one

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Twice a day, Paul Inman leaves his Liberty Lake residence and makes the short drive to visit his wife of 42 years, Linda. He feeds her and talks to her. He visits with people he refers to as extended family and moves from room to room through a place he calls his second home.

That place is Guardian Angel Homes. Moving Linda into the assisted living facility three years ago was the “hardest decision I ever made,” Paul recalls, and the truth of that statement can still be heard in his voice.

Ten years ago, Linda was diagnosed with frontal lobe dementia. As the condition progressed, Paul found himself tasked with things Linda had always taken care of — paying the bills, cooking the meals.

“As the years progressed, she became more dependent,” Paul said. “About six years ago, it became full time for me, 24 hours a day taking care of her.”

He chose Guardian Angel as his preferred assisted living facility long before he ever made a decision to move Linda in. He couldn’t bring himself to make the final decision.

“You feel very, very guilty that you have to put your loved one someplace else,” Paul said. “I can’t take care of her anymore? What’s wrong with me?”

The decision point came when Linda fell, and Paul couldn’t get her up without calling for help. He realized both his mental health and his physical health had long since deteriorated, a fact his friends and family had been telling him — and that he was potentially putting the safety of his wife at risk.

“A lot of times the caregivers give out before the patient,” Paul said. “You’ve got to listen to what other people are telling you.”

But oh, the guilt.

“It was the worst decision I ever made; it was the best decision I ever made,” he said. “And it takes a little while to understand why it is a good decision.”

It was the worst decision I ever made; it was the best decision I ever made.

Paul Inman

He said after an adjustment period of “a couple three months,” he realized moving Linda into Guardian Angel was the best thing he could have done for both of them.

“Now for my wife, that’s home. She’s very comfortable and safe, and the staff is family,” he said.

That’s just how Guardian Angel Homes Administrator Joan Estudillo would want Paul and Linda to feel about the staff.

“We pride ourselves in hiring and training very kind, caring people who desire to become a part of the Guardian Angel Homes family,” she said. “These caring, compassionate hires develop a trust with our residents and their family members that settles the nerves as well as the guilt.”

Estudillo has served as administrator since 2003, and she considers it part of her mission to walk alongside family members during this time of transition.

“There is so much guilt, so much heartbreak,” she said. “We are committed to building a community of support — yes, you will get through this. Yes, it is the right thing to do.”

NOTE: A version of this article first appeared in the 2019 Liberty Lake Yearbook.

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