She was a 28-year-old Japanese-American woman living in Seattle with an excellent job. When her mother received a terminal diagnosis, her world turned upside down. She was an only child and her father had passed some years earlier, so the duty fell to Anna to become caregiver to her mom.
Is it duty or honor? For her, it would prove to be both.
She was the first client that I accompanied on the caregiver journey. We both learned a lot. Most people are totally unprepared and untrained for this journey. It is overwhelming and exhausting, frustrating and rewarding. Unless you have the skills of a social worker, administrative assistant, nurse, maid, chef, assertive advocate, chauffeur, and therapist then you are flying by the seat of your pants.
Managing doctors’ appointments, medications and side effects, organizing medical equipment, and bathing and dressing a loved one is daunting and exhausting. The psychological pressure of “doing it correctly” is a heavy weight.
When I was working at Hospice of Santa Barbara, our hearts were heavy for caregivers, so we started a support group and made sure they were pampered in a way that most did not allow themselves to be. But the group numbers dwindled because the caregivers felt guilty for leaving their loved one. “Take care of yourself first so you have something to give others,” is an important but mostly ignored adage. Nevertheless, I highly recommend group support. Check out a local church, hospice, or online group.
Guilt seems to be an emotion that is prevalent during this difficult time.
In Anna’s case, she had the guilt of leaving behind her husband in Seattle to care for mom in Santa Barbara. When she returned to visit her husband, she felt the guilt of leaving mom. She always felt the fear that she was not doing enough to help either relationship. Anna’s mom passed after eight months of loving care. Fortunately, their mutual love and respect made the journey one that Anna cherished. That is not always the case.
There are so many aspects to the difficulties of caregiving that I cannot list here. Please know that I honor you now and what you have accomplished in the past, and what you have to deal with for the future.
Feel free to leave comments to share your experiences or insights.
Remember my book is now available in Spanish. I’m so excited to bring my words to a whole new audience.
Also, soon I will be coming out with a new helpful product. It’s a set of 12-plus sympathy cards to you give to a friend or relative each month after their loss. When a griever stops hearing from people, it becomes empty and uncomfortable. Let them know you still care throughout the year. I’ll let you know when they are available.