When Caregiving Ends


griefIt's been a year since my mother died and my caregiving ended.  The caregiving was an all consuming responsibility.  I yearned for my role to end and I dreaded it at the same time.

About a year before my mother died, she experienced a sharp decline.  For the first time I realized that some day she would die.  This may sound strange but like many of us, I practiced deep denial each day.  My thought as I debated an emergency visit was "who am I...if I am not my mother's caregiver?"  This shocked me to my core.  I thought I was more balanced than that.

During the past year I have reflected on my journey of grief and recovery from caregiving.  Where ever you may be in your caregiver's journey, I hope these tips will help.

Listen to your body

Caregiving is about sacrifice, too many of us run on empty, always giving until we get sick. Work to stay tuned to what your body is saying.  Make getting adequate rest and taking breaks from your caregiving as important as caring for parents.

Speak from your heart

The responsibilities of caregiving can be endless.  Make the time to share how your feelings with the person you are caring for. Don't save it for the eulogy. There's no time like today to share your love or work toward forgiveness.

Do your best ... put it to rest

As I have reflected on my caregiving experiences, it was easy to go to a place of regret and guilt.  It's an important caregiving practice to analyze and learn from things that went wrong. The next step is keep the knowledge and step away from the regret.  Regret and guilt were familiar forms of caregiver thinking that hurt me.  Whenever you find yourself rehashing decisions, keep the knowledge and shift your thoughts to another topic.

Reclaim what's true

Caregiving is your reality but don't let it become the totality of who and your parent are.  My journey after my mother's death has been about reclaiming her from Alzheimer's disease.

My mom loved to play cards and gloated when she won. She was a city girl who loved to camp.  Peeling back the layers of loss, illness and indignity, I gladly shed my caregiver's role and reclaim the mother I knew.

What is your caregiving teaching you?  Share with us.

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--Janice Wallace