by Karen Bromberg
Answer a question – Do you assume your caregiving ends when your care recipient either is no longer here or is being cared for by others?
As most of you know, my parents passed in late 2016; my mother in early November and my father in early December. But this isn’t just about what happens with caregivers when a care recipient dies.
It’s also about those caregivers who, until recently, have provided 24/7 care for their loved ones but have had to put them into an assisted living or a nursing home. It’s about those who have had to hire someone to come into the house even if it’s a couple of hours a week and it’s for those who have taken advantage of respite care even if only once every so often.
If you’re anything like me, the second the anxiety-fest subsides you don’t know what to do with yourself. You may feel a little lost, confused, maybe somewhat disoriented. I mean, there you were, so busy, no weekends, maybe no evenings, then, suddenly nothing.
When my parents passed it was a real challenge for me. I mean, I was functioning at such a fast pace, with so much adrenaline coursing through my system that it took me a while to throttle back.
I kept asking myself, “Okay, what needs to be done now? What needs to be done now?” It was like a broken record. Over and over again, the same question as when I was in the throes of caregiving.
But the truth was . . . nothing needed to be done.
For those still in the middle of their caregiving, let me just say that I get it. I know you’re probably thinking that I’m being ridiculous. Complaining about nothing, like those models who complain about being fat when they themselves are pencil thin.
You, who would like nothing more than a good night’s sleep. You, who would like nothing better than a weekend to call your own. You, who may be suffering from caregiver fatigue, caregiver stress, caregiver burnout and would like nothing better than to have a good rest, I want you to know that I totally understand your feelings.
That said, the question still remains. What do we do when we still have caregiving love in our hearts, but nowhere to focus it?
Tips and Strategies
To my mind, there are so many things we can do. The most obvious, of course, is to volunteer and for those so inclined (and who have the time and energy) there are many so opportunities. You can:
- become a big brother or big sister,
- volunteer at a soup kitchen,
- read to the blind or
- read to the elderly.
For many, being with others, helping others, seeing others grow and achieve is precisely what gives their lives meaning. For others, not so much and that’s perfectly okay. We’re all wired differently and as my father would say, “that’s what makes the world go ‘roud.”
In a previous blog post titled, “Being Our Own Best Caregiver” I pose the question, “what if instead of putting our needs last, we fold them into whatever we need to do for our loved one(s)? In essence, we become caregivers to ourselves as well.”
So, my question is, what if (whether we choose to volunteer or not, whether our loved one has passed or not) take up the mantle and become our own best caregivers? What if:
- instead of focusing solely on Mom getting up, getting dressed and eating a good breakfast the way you always have in the past, you also made sure that you get up in time so that you can get dressed and have a good breakfast?
- instead of focusing solely on Dad having people in his life that he can socialize with, you also made sure that you have people in your life that you can socialize and have a good laugh with?
- instead of focusing solely on making sure that your spouse keeps his or her doctor’s appointments, that you also make sure that you keep yours?
You get the idea.
And if your loved one has passed, what if you took all that caregiver’s love that’s still in your heart and turn it toward yourself? I mean, who deserves it more?
That kindness, that caring and that concern that you so lovingly showered on your care recipient, how about sprinkling some of that on yourself? So much better than hiding it away, thinking it no longer is needed or pretending that it doesn’t exist.
Look, we all have the right to do as we see fit and that includes putting our caregiving selves on the shelf, once that part is not needed as much.
My suggestion is that we don’t.
Karen Bromberg is the founder of Help You Thru, LLC, an online resource for family caregivers offering resources, relaxation and relaxation techniques to overwhelmed caregivers. Feel free to contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Want more information about how you can make your caregiving journey easier? Join our mailing list.