Nursing Home Shame

young caregiver helping elderly woman on  wheelchair


Living at home, my mother’s multiple sclerosis (MS) and dependency on her family, made her miserable. Her family was tired of waiting on her, and she knew it. When my mother informed me that she planned to divorce my father and move to a nursing home, I felt my stomach drop to my ankles. I lived two hours away. I was in the habit of driving to see my parents about once every three weeks. I wondered how life would be for her in a nursing home. I figured that she would be living with dying people. My father was angry with her for the divorce—or the move. I’m not sure which. Maybe both. He couldn’t handle her by himself, but…a nursing home?

My mother made the decision without family input. Although most people make the decision to move to a nursing home through family consensus, my mother made her own decision. She tried to remain in control of her life, even from her wheelchair.

Soon after I heard the news, a coworker asked why I looked so sad while I was pouring myself a cup of tea. I told her of my mother’s decision, and she sympathetically tried to console me. She must have told other coworkers, though, because later that day, another coworker loudly exclaimed, “I could never put my mother in a nursing home.” She wasn’t directly talking to me, but I knew her words were intended for my ears. I ignored her statement. I delicately chose with whom I would share this information after that, but many of the people with whom I shared still believed that letting a parent move to a nursing home was a disgrace.

Today’s Tip

The Census Bureau reports 1.3 million Americans live in nursing homes.

What would you do if your parent became too difficult to care for at home? How would you feel about moving them to a nursing home? How would you handle ridicule from friends and coworkers?

Post By Peggy McKinnon (5 Posts)

Peggy has worked in the healthcare industry for 38 years, yet has gained her greatest insight into aging, illness, and the benefit of nursing homes as a caregiver for her mother, who lived with multiple sclerosis for over 40 years. Now a grandmother herself, Peggy is furthering the conversation about the challenges and joys of caring for loved ones—and how nursing homes can help. Challenged by a professor to write for publication, Peggy published her first article in 2010 and her mother’s memoir, Life in the Slow Lane, in 2017. She learns daily from her writing coach and is currently writing her own book, which will tell the triumphal story of her mother’s struggle with MS, from a daughter’s perspective. Peggy and her husband Steve live in Florida with their dog Kaci. She can be reached at or twitter, LifeintheSlowLane


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