How Caregivers Heal after the Sacrifice
Aging Matters

Family members at times take on the role of caregiving suddenly, assuming the tasks of helping a loved one without knowing what they're giving up. In most cases, people don't recognize their sacrifice and view the tasks as administering medications, preparing meals, giving rides, and making arrangements to live with their loved--all for the sake of the right thing to do.

How caregiving effects adults who step into the role:

  • Helping my parents through elder care put life on hold and I focused on their personal needs more than my own.
  • Deferred retirement to maintain the 6 figure income to cover my Mother's assisted living or nursing home expenses, when unable to care for her at home.
  • Retired to give my Mom 24/7 care, we were able to cover the expenses without any real issues. She lived with me in my home until the end. The cost to me was in a personal and social life.
  • I gave up every weekend and one week a month, sacrificing 1/4 of my salary to unpaid family leave for mom-care for about 4 years. Eventually, lost my job because she was dying and I would not leave her in home hospice alone.

The Impact of a Care Recipient's Death

A caregiver's life is forever changed when the loved one passes away. So much of the caregiver's sense of self came from providing care. This is the time when the family member feels lost and alone.

The caregiver's purpose is tied up in caring for another and their identify ripped away. Now, they have no ties to providing care, the caregiver is left without someone to care for. The family member may feel useless and abandoned.

Having invested so much time and attention into giving care, it's difficult to shift the focus--on you, the caregiver. The following tips are from Crossroads Hospice:

  • Use rituals as a tool to help cope with grief
  • Allow whatever you're feeling
  • Take time-outs from grieving
  • Seek help from a licensed therapist
  • Reach out to others to re-establish relationships
  • Lean on family and friends
  • Get rest and exercise
  • Practice daily prayer or meditation

Family caregiving demands a great deal of life changes to meet the care of a terminally ill loved one. The care you gave diminished the focus on your own needs. So, be gentle with yourself and work towards healing. The role of the caregiver isn't who you are.

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Carol Marak, aging advocate and editor at Seniorcare.com. She's earned a Certificate in the Fundamentals of Gerontology from UC Davis, School of Gerontology.



Part of the Aging Matters Weekly Syndicated Column

Aging Matters is a weekly column tackling everyday challenges that our growing elderly population and their loved ones face. It is also published in a variety of syndication partners including newspapers all over the country.

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