Life After Caregiving
Life After Caregiving
As demanding as caregiving is while you're in the midst of it, there is no time to even consider what will happen when your caregiving demands cease to exist. What do you mean "after?" Like most caregivers, I spent every waking second for years on end laser-focused on my precious Momma's heath care, well-being and management of the daily responsibilities to care for her with her debilitating Alzheimer's disease as I was her sole and primary caregiver. Therefore, I could not imagine what a life after caregiving would even look like. There was no time to think about it and when the end was near, I couldn't bear to bring myself to even think about it, as the thought of life without my Momma was too painful to think about. Unfortunately, the time eventually came when my life went from 5,000,000 to 0 in the blink of an eye and as demanding as caregiving was for all those grueling years, the crushing blow that followed after my beautiful Momma passed with the grief and pain that followed her passing as well as the caregiving duties that came to a grinding halt was almost unbearable. Not only was I not ready to say goodbye (we were so close forever that I never would have been, bless her heart) but my caregiving duties ceased to exist and I was left with a gaping hole that I am still trying to learn to live with and heal.
Like most caregivers, I always thought that I would welcome the relief and respite from the day to day grind that all caregivers go through with little to no help, relief or end in sight. I was not always the most understanding of our situation, in the beginning, I resented my role as a caregiver and could not wait for it to go away (let's be clear though, the caregiving to go away, not my Momma, not even then, not ever.) As years passed, I gradually started to accept our situation and began to appreciate my poor dear Mothers' plight (after all she was the one who was struck down with this insidious disease, so what about what she was going through?) and my role in caring for her no matter what it took. I continued growing into my role in caring for her even though as the years passed, the work and dedication it took to care for her on a daily basis got harder and then even harder than that. I grew to realize and accept that no matter what it took, I would give her the best life at home possible and I would advocate for her on her behalf in the face of the health care industry juggernaut. Advocate for her I did and the battles we fought and won, both physical and bureaucratic were nothing short of miraculous. So when the time came that the end was near and our life together came to an end and my Momma went to heaven, I was left with the most crushing, gaping hole in my life. Not only was my wonderful Momma gone, but my role for umpteen years as her advocate and caregiver were gone too. As tempting as that may sound to a current caregiver (an end in sight to the hectic caregiving grind,) it was and continues to be even more painful than all the pain that I went through as a sole and primary caregiver.
That's right, at least for me, my "after-care" post-caregiving life continues to be a roller coaster of emotions and re-adjusting to life after caregiving continues to be a work in progress. Some days are better than others and you are never quite prepared for it just as you were not really prepared for caregiving to begin with either. This is where the "beyond" part of my 'caregivingandbeyond' blog comes into play. You see, it's been a while since I've last posted because I have been dealing with learning to live again after caregiving and it has not been easy. This is why I share my story with you so that you too can somehow either relate if you're currently in my position or hopefully mentally prepare for it if you're still caregiving now.
If you are in the "after-care" part of caregiving, may you know that you are not alone and that others out there (more like millions from the stats I've read) have gone through what you've gone through and there is not much information and/or help for caregivers to deal with life 'after' caregiving. You're just kind of thrown into it and left alone with your heartache, loneliness and pain and told to get 'over it.' Well, I hope I can tell you that you are not alone and you will also survive this too because if you were one of the lucky few to have been your loved ones caregiver, then you can get through this too. I didn't say it would be easy, but you will make it because you are stronger than you think.
If you are still doing the day-to-day grind of caregiving now with no end in sight, I ask you to please realize that important role that you currently play in your loved ones life and there is no greater honor than caring for someone else who cannot in any way repay you back for what you are doing. In my opinion, there is no need for them to pay you back, not really as they are the ones who are stricken with a disease they cannot control and you have stepped up to do the impossible for them because you are a rare kind of human I like to call: kind, considerate and loving. My hope for your is that when your caregiving duties come to an end, that you can look back on your life and realize that your selflessness was your greatest reward. May you look back on this time with gratitude in knowing that you helped your loved one out when no one else would and that you will be rewarded for it down the road and if nothing else, at least you will be able to sleep with a clear conscious like I do, that we did that best possible for our loved ones.
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