“We Moved Her Too Soon”: Navigating Guilt Among Adult Child and Spousal Caregivers of Persons Living With Dementia Following a Move Into Residential Long-Term Care

Tamara L Statz, Colleen M. Peterson, Robyn W Birkeland, Hayley McCarron, Jessica M. Finlay, Christina E. Rosebush, Zachary Baker, Joseph E. Gaugler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Guilt is a complex and multifaceted emotion navigated by many family caregivers (CG). Guilt is sometimes experienced following a transition into a residential long-term care (RLTC) facility, even when the move is necessary given high care needs related to Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias. This mixed-methods study identifies and compares areas of guilt most frequently experienced by spouse and adult child caregivers (N = 83) of a family member with dementia following transition into RLTC. Nearly half of caregivers reported experiencing guilt from their care recipient (CR), other family members, or facility staff. Quantitative analyses explored variables that predict heightened feelings of guilt, and qualitative thematic analyses provided rich insight into subjective experiences of guilt. Person-specific and situational characteristics influenced caregiver guilt, including level of involvement in care, frequency and quality of visits, and perceptions of the RLTC facility. We identify specific opportunities for tailored couple and family psychology interventions, including communication strategies, decision-making approaches, focusing on positives, psychoeducation, self-forgiveness exercises, stress management and self-care activities, and validation. The current work informs how counseling interventions can provide practical support by highlighting specific clinical mechanisms that help to alleviate common facets of caregiver guilt following a transition into RLTC. Critically, we distinguish variation between spouses and adult children to design treatment plans that best support clients who are caring for a person living with dementia in RLTC.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)300-314
Number of pages15
JournalCouple and Family Psychology: Research and Practice
Issue number4
StatePublished - May 13 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Research reported in this publication was supported by the National Institute on Aging and the National Center for Advancing Translational Science of the National Institutes of Health under award numbers R01AG049692, F32AG064815, and UL1TR002240 and the Robert L. Kane Endowed Chair in Long-Term Care and Aging. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health. Portions of these findings were presented as a poster at the 2019 meeting of the Gerontological Society of America, Austin, TX, United States. Tamara L. Statz maintains a private practice that neither benefits from nor influences this study or the participants therein. There is no legal or financial relationship between the university and her practice. The other authors declare no competing or conflicting interests.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 American Psychological Association


  • Adult child
  • Alzheimer’s disease and alzheimer’s disease-related dementias
  • Caregiving
  • Guilt
  • Spouse


Dive into the research topics of '“We Moved Her Too Soon”: Navigating Guilt Among Adult Child and Spousal Caregivers of Persons Living With Dementia Following a Move Into Residential Long-Term Care'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this