We are not only in a new year, but a new decade! I don’t usually think about these things until it’s actually happening. Wow! A new decade!
What does that mean for caregivers? It could be you lost a loved one at the end of last year, or it could be someone near and dear has just been diagnosed with a form of dementia or another type of illness.
For each example it is a new start for the caregiver. If you’ve lost a loved one, you’re starting over in life learning how to live without that person; moving forward to rebuild your own life. For the person just becoming a caregiver, you, too, are going to have to learn how to live a different kind of life. Your journey is just beginning and there is no time frame to speak of.
Every person’s experience is unique. However, there can be a common thread in both situations. Focus on the “now” and the good that can and will come through your experiences.
If you’ve lost someone recently, give yourself permission to grieve for as long as you need. Remember, there is no time limit for grieving. Allow yourself to feel and work through those feelings the best way you can or know how. Let other people do things for you if they offer. You will eventually see and find the good during this time. This is not an instant accomplishment, but one that occurs over a period of time. Just don’t limit your time, move through it day by day.
If you find yourself suddenly becoming a caregiver, don’t panic. Our first thoughts are always fight flight flee! Yes, it’s a terrifying thought becoming a caregiver. What does a caregiver do? How will I be able to work full time and be a caregiver? Is anyone else willing to step up and help out? Is there anybody else in my shoes? Will family and friends understand? Will I be alienated from family and friends?
All the above questions are normal for someone starting out as a caregiver. It is undoubtedly the most frightening job because of all the unknowns. So what can you do?
First, give yourself time to digest the fact that your loved one has been diagnosed with some form of dementia or another type of illness. Talk to each other and discuss any fears you might have. Being transparent with one another is crucial. Never lie to each other and keep secrets. This is going to be a different kind of relationship that will be dealing with ups and downs like an emotional roller coaster. Learn together and let your loved one know you are with them every step of the way; you love them unconditionally. You will find good in your journey, and even blessings if you enter into this role being open to help and support, not just from family, but from experts in the field, friends and church.
Whatever you do, do not make this about you!
Being a caregiver is hard, I’m not going to lie. But this journey isn’t about you and your woes. This is about the person with the disease. Put yourself in their place and think about what they just heard in their diagnosis. What is going through their mind? How can you help them understand that they don’t have to go this journey by themselves because they have YOU! You, in turn, will not be alone as a caregiver because you will have others helping you to understand how to be a caregiver. This is where the experts come in like the Alzheimer’s Association and many other organizations available to help caregivers. These experts are the “good” and the “blessings” you will find and need.
For the past four years when the New Year comes around, instead of a resolution I pray for a word for the year. This year the Lord sent me two words: Surrender and Freedom.
My prayer is for you to have a divinely appointed “word(s)” for 2020 and see how you’re guided throughout the year.
May 2020 bring you Light and Love