If your spouse’s health has deteriorated to the point that you no longer feel confident in your competence as a caretaker, it may be time to have a hard conversation about long-term care options. It’s a difficult moment in any relationship. You may feel incredibly uncomfortable at the prospect. You may even feel like you’ve failed your partner in some way. But you haven’t!

Your partner may need more supervision and medical attention that you can provide. Rather than feeling guilty, view placing them in long-term care as providing for their needs in the best way you know how.

The first step is to have a conversation with your partner. Here are some tips for how to approach this discussion with kindness and consideration.

Tips for having the talk

  • Bring long-term care up as naturally as possible. Don’t intimidate your partner with a family intervention or a big announcement of, “We need to talk.” Instead, when discussing their health, introduce long-term care as something you’ve been thinking about.
  • Listen to your partner’s feelings and concerns. Remember, this is their life. Hear them out. In the absence of a healthcare power of attorney, this is a decision you need to make together.
  • Do your research beforehand. Be prepared to answer your partner’s questions during the discussion so that you can have a more productive conversation.
  • Shop and research different facilities. You and your partner, assuming they are mobile, can visit local nursing homes to decide which one might be the right fit. Be sure to consider the environment, the volume of staff, the medical care available and the social activities provided. You may want to check the facility’s history of negligence and abuse complaints using a resource like ProPublica’s database.
  • Keep the discussion open and ongoing. Long-term care is rarely a one-time discussion. Continue to listen and talk with your partner on this subject until you reach an agreement.

This conversation won’t be easy, but if long-term care is the best option for you and your partner, it is necessary. These guidelines will help you get started. The rest is up to you.