Health & Fitness
Offer friendship to lonely longtime caregiver
GARY JOSEPH LeBLANCAs a former caregiver, I know what it is to devote years and years to a loved one's well being.
Published: April 21, 2012
Published: April 21, 2012
That's how it was for me, spending nine-plus years caring for my father with Alzheimer's disease. Although I wouldn't have had it any other way, I know that I lost part of my life that I will never regain.
If you know a friend or relative who has lost a loved one and is just beginning the grieving process, please call or visit them. I guarantee that when asked, "Is everything OK?" they will tell you that they are fine.
My opinion is that 99.9 percent of them are covering up the truth, which is that they are falling apart and are desperately in need. They could use all kinds of help, especially with regaining a social life.
After years of tending to a loved one and living life in full-tilt caregiver mode, it's a very distressing circumstance to suddenly find that, after the loved one's death, all things familiar seem to come to a halt, leaving you in a lonely void.
After almost a decade of watching Dad's every move and trying to anticipate his every need, it was like someone had all of a sudden opened a floodgate. This raging river of newly released freedom came roaring in.
For years I had barely been able to get away to a grocery store; then abruptly I could go wherever I wanted, whenever I wanted.
But the truth of the matter was, I didn't even feel like leaving my own driveway.
I had told myself many times that when this journey was over I was going to treat myself to a well-deserved, overdue vacation -- maybe even visit some old friends. The reality was that I couldn't even get myself to leave the county.
I found myself constantly looking for something or someone to take care of. If the cat sneezed, I was ready to rush over with tissue in hand. I truly felt as if I wasn't whole if I wasn't helping others. I soon learned that, "once a caregiver, always a caregiver."
Reportedly, 45 percent of caregivers will go through mild to severe depression for up to two or three years after a loved one has passed. Many will never fully recover and once again enjoy a functional social life. They must learn to slowly accept the up and down changes one day at a time.
It's highly unlikely that those who have traveled down the rough road of caregiving will ever look at life in the same manner, but I mean that in a good way. Most come away with tremendous growth in their emotional and spiritual inner being. But there's no question that there is a recovery stage one must go through.
So, if you know of any caregivers who have recently lost a loved one, help them find their way back into today's society. Take them to lunch or to an uplifting movie. Simply getting them out of their house may bounce them back on the right path to start enjoying life again.
Gary Joseph LeBlanc can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. His book, "Staying Afloat in a Sea of Forgetfulness," can be found at stayingafloatbook.com, amazon.com or Barnes & Noble.