After serving as the primary caregiver for a senior loved one—an intense commitment of emotion, energy, and love—you are left with good and bad memories, deep feelings, and perhaps a different perspective on life.
If your loved one has moved into a long-term care community, you will experience a transition in the way you budget your time and live your life. If your senior passed away after a long period of devoted care by you, you may have many emotions and even issues with which to deal.
First, examine how your life might have changed by your caregiving experience.
The Price of Caregiving
If your loved one suffered from dementia, you may have watched them fade away from you and become a person you did not recognize. You may have succumbed to the belief that you had to be a super caregiver, and that no one would suffice in that role but you. In doing so, you may have alienated some of your family and friends. On the other hand, you could have fallen into the trap of not forgiving any mistakes you thought you made, and subsequently be plagued by guilt.
You may have neglected your own spouse and family while providing care. You may have missed events, celebrations, and milestones. Perhaps there is some healing now required with your immediate family.
Your social connections—relationships with friends, participation in organizations, outings with coworkers— may have suffered, causing you to feel lonely and isolated.
Finally, you may in the large group of primary caregivers who had put your professional career on hold by either cutting back your time or commitment for work, thereby sacrificing promotions, costing yourself money, and losing opportunities to advance. You may have left your employment, faced with starting all over again.
All of this has taken a toll on your physical and emotional health.
Remember the positive aspects of your caregiving. You sacrificed many things, but it was for service to a loved one. You should be proud of yourself. There were special moments—memories, thoughts, and activities shared, and perhaps some laughter along the way. As time passes, the pain of losing your loved one will be replaced by recalling the positive experiences of spending special time with him or her.
While caregiving, you may have neglected yourself physically and emotionally. Refocus on exercise and healthy eating. Take up the hobby and activity you used to enjoy but long neglected, or try something new.
Also, it is important to physically rest. Chances are, while caregiving, you shortchanged yourself on restful sleep.
Grieve; do not ignore your loss, whether it is a physical loss of your loved one or the loss of your role as caregiver. Identify a friend or family member to talk with, or seek professional grief support. Do not try to hold everything inside. Understand you will also need to let grief go at times. Take a walk, attend a concert, and share a laugh with a friend over lunch. Everyone needs positive connections with others.
Utilize the help provided by a support group, either personal or professional. These people understand what you have been through, or are willing to listen to you talk about it.
Seek mutual healing and understanding with friends and family members that you may have neglected or frustrated, or that may have hurt you while you were heavily involved in caregiving.
If your loved one is in a long-term care community, you may find that the time you spend visiting them is more enjoyable and positive than when you were concerned with numerous distracting details while serving as their caregiver.
Rediscover yourself and all the people, relationships, and activities that you love. There is life after caregiving.
If you are a senior caregiver and need support, Bethesda is here to help. Our wide range of senior care and services available throughout the Greater St. Louis area, and can help relieve stress while providing exceptional care for your senior loved one. Contact us to learn more.