My aunt, who is 96 years old, has been living in a nursing home for over five years. She has accumulated a lot of things and has a hard time letting go of them. The facility has urged her to clear her things, especially when there is an audit, which causes her stress. They won't let me add a portable storage unit in her room. I am caught in the middle. What should I do?
Answer from a Therapist:
I understand your feeling of being caught in the middle. On the one hand, you don’t want your aunt to feel stressed and anxious by letting go of all those things that she has accumulated. On the other hand, the facility has its rules and regulations to ensure the safety of its residents. Both are difficult for you to change. I have several suggestions that may be helpful.
Firstly, check if there are therapists in the nursing home that can provide your aunt with emotional support and talk about why it’s so hard for her to let go of those things. Sometimes people accumulate things that are of no value because of emotional reasons. If that’s the case, talking with a therapist may help.
Secondly, if it’s available for you, finding an external storage place elsewhere may be helpful. Your aunt doesn’t have to go through the difficult decision of letting go of her things and complying with the facility rules.
Also, you can talk to a manager and look for other possible solutions regarding your aunt's situation.
The last suggestion is for you as a caregiver. I appreciate your taking care of your 96-year-old aunt. It always takes a lot of time and energy to take care of a senior. You are concerned about her and care about her. You are a very kind person. I hope you give yourself some credit. If you feel stressed, I hope you also get support because we always forget about ourselves when we take care of others.
I wish I could do more, but the situation is always more complicated and requires more communication and mediation. I hope things work out for your aunt.
It has not been easy for me since my birth.
I was born in a rural area to a sickly mom who passed away when I was three years old. My dad brought me up with two older siblings. My brother went to join the Bhutanese army and my sister got married when I was 12 years old. I lived with my dad who was in his late 60s. Our house was in a location where we had to walk more than 45 minutes to reach the nearest neighbor. School was one hour walking distance. I had to do farm work, feed the cattle, do all housework, and help my dad every day. I got to school late most of the time and got punished.
I can remember a day in 1974 when there was a great famine in Bhutan. We ran out of food and my dad sent me to my cousin's house to borrow food. It was almost 45 minutes away. I went and borrowed around one pound of rice. But on the way home I fell, spilling all the rice on the dirty ground. I picked up all the rice, went home, cleaned it, and cooked it. I was late going home that day and was beaten as a punishment.
The time came when I passed grade 5 in the second division, but my dad had no way of sending me to the school where I was supposed to go. I also did not know that he was planning to marry me off. I refused and was set back a year. Luckily, one of the meteorologists who came to work in our village supported and assisted me in pursuing more education. He was of Punjabi background. My father went to look for a school and left me alone at home. He found a school approximately 250 miles away and took me to enroll. I was enrolled at Gaylegphug Junior High School.
In 1977 when I came home during our winter vacation, I found that my house had completely burnt down and nothing was left. The community helped us rebuild the house. I went to the hospital and back to my school. I finished my schooling there and went to another school. I would like to continue my story next time. Some of the incidents that triggered me most of the time was during the time of famine, when we ran out of food. Now I always pity people who are begging and who are homeless. As always, I open my fist.
Answer from a Therapist:
Thank you for opening up and sharing your life story. I felt like I was watching a movie when I read your story. You didn’t mention your emotions as a result of the hardships you experienced while growing up, but I could sense how they have affected you deeply and how heavy your heart was. Life may have been so miserable for you that the beating wasn't worse than anything else you were experiencing. I am so thankful that you persisted with the help of adult figures in your life who supported your desire to go to school.
It is good that you are aware of your triggers nowadays, and that’s what matters. You know how you feel and you are managing it. As long as you feel you can manage all the feelings when they happen, you are fine. If you feel that you need to talk through your life story, that might be helpful for your overall well-being. I would suggest seeking a counselor with cultural sensitivity, talk to a trusted friend, or attend a support group online.
Disclaimer: The content cannot be construed as clinical diagnosis and/or treatment. If you suspect any mental illness, please seek professional help. You can also call 216-361-1223 (Cleveland) or 234-312-3607 (Akron) for a counseling appointment with a mental health provider at ASIA’s International Community Health Centers.
If you feel that you are in immediate danger, call 911. You can also call 988 for mental health crisis intervention.
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