The hardest thing you will ever do in life is to become a caregiver.
Whether it happens gradually or suddenly, it is devastating to both the
caregiver and the loved one. No one ever expects it to happen to them. You
may start out is disbelief then your emotions will run a gamut. You will
become emotionally, physically and mentally exhausted. No two days are
the same as you try to learn how to navigate your way through this new
stage of life. You are on duty 24 – 7 with little respite. If you are lucky you
will have a support team of relatives, friends and medical. Even with help
you are still on alert. You don’t sleep well because you always have one ear
open. Crises may be a normal part of your life depending on your loved
one’s condition. You try to handle medical emergencies with outward calm
even when you are shaking inside. Your emotions fluctuate between
sadness, anger, despair, acceptance, denial and just plain overwhelming love
for the one you are trying to protect and support. Even so, you would never
choose a different path.
Your loved one is experiencing many of the same thoughts and
emotions. After the disbelief, they too go through stages. Some are
embarrassed or ashamed that they have put you in this position. Through no
fault of their own their lives have changed course, with no map to guide or
understanding why this event has changed the dynamics of your
relationship. No one is in control of this situation. You both struggle to
adapt to this new life and find some form of order in the chaos. In time you
start to adjust. Though you are still sad for yourself and your loved one, you
move forward in this new life. The love you share is still there. Touch is
important to hold the connection that has morphed into a new dimension,
especially when speech and memory are involved. A gentle touch tells them
you are still here, still in love and that you aren’t going anywhere. You
grieve the loss of the old life but you come to realize the one you so loved is
still there. You adapt and you grow from the experience. You are still
exhausted and sad but you find that inner strength that says you are OK.
You too are loved.