Caring for an aging or ill loved-one is often an exhausting and overwhelming responsibility but when someone who received care passes, it can leave caregivers with a wide range of emotions. Caregivers may feel relief when the end arrives, especially after a lengthy illness, and it’s important to understand that this is a normal response. Sad relief is not a sign of weakness, nor an indication that the caregiver regrets their journey or the care they gave, but is a natural reaction when setting down an often very heavy burden.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, unpaid caregivers provided an estimated 90 per cent of long term care in 2008 and half of caregivers report their own health has suffered as a result of their duties.
The loss of a family member or close friend who’s needs a devoted caregiver often puts before their own, sometimes for years, can leave not only a wave of grief behind but also a sense of uncertainty. Caregivers may feel a significant void in a once busy daily schedule. And while grief takes time to work through and can encompass changing emotions, it’s important to seek professional help if signs of depression take over.
Signs of Depression
- Thoughts of suicide
- Feeling worthless
- Prolonged difficulty participating in normal daily activities
- Feelings of guilt not related to the loss
- Confused speech
- Delusions or hallucinations
- Prolonged lethargy
A former caregiver should be encouraged to use their newly-found time to return to the activities they once enjoyed, renew friendships or begin a postponed endeavor. Starting an exercise program, volunteering, learning a new skill or returning to school are all ways that caregivers can start to embrace their own lives again after care giving is over. Working caregivers may be able to better focus on their careers, relationships and take care of their own health. The process takes time but being productive can be a coping mechanism for many after a loss and in time grief softens and happy memories can begin to surface.
With a growing understanding of the stress and strain of being a caregiver, there a number of resources and support groups available for family and friends who have taken on this role. For online caregiver information, visit the American Association of Retired Persons by following this link . For further information about building credit following the death of a partner, including tips on scams to beware of, follow this link.