Unfortunately, the chronic stress of caregiving isn’t over when it’s over. After caring for someone you love for many years, you lose parts of your life that can take years to recover, if ever.
Certain side-effects tend to linger on. For instance, forty-five percent of caregivers go through mild-to-severe depression for up to two to three years after their loved one has passed. Many never fully recover to once again enjoy a functional social life. A caregiver must learn to accept the changes one day at a time. It’s highly unlikely that a caregiver will look at life in the same manner after experiencing such a long emotional campaign.
An overwhelming majority will neglect his or her own health care during and after the duties are over. I know that in my case, the last sort of people I wanted to associate with were physicians or anyone else working in the medical profession. I had more than my fill of them, especially throughout the last six months of my father’s life. After Dad’s passing I think it was about a year before I could bear to see a doctor for any reason.
Then there is the problem of finances. Facts show that one-third of caregivers report their income to be in the poor to near-poor range. A high percentage of caregivers that I have heard from have found it necessary to quit their jobs only to resurface in the current world of high unemployment. These people are trying to steady themselves and finally get back on their feet, while at the same time living in a world of dismay. It’s hard to describe exactly how it feels, but I can tell you it’s like living in a world of emptiness.
For almost a decade I was devoted to the cause of caring for my dad. But when that time ended, all of a sudden it was like a floodgate was opened. It wasn’t like a gentle stream flowing by; it was more like shooting the white water rapids of newly released freedom! For years I could barely get out to go to the grocery store and suddenly I could go wherever I wanted, whenever I wanted. But, the truth of the matter was, I didn’t feel like going anywhere. I had told myself that when this journey was over I was going to treat myself to a well over due vacation, maybe visit some old friends. I couldn’t even get myself to leave the county!
Actually, I found myself constantly looking for something else to take care of. Anybody! For instance, a sick friend with the flu, or if the cat sneezed I was ready to rush over and hand her a tissue, a dying plant, it didn’t matter. Truly I finally got my fix from helping other caregivers.
There’s definitely a recovery stage one must go through. So if you know any caregivers who have recently lost a loved one, give them a call. They will most likely tell you everything is fine. But the reality is that they probably need help readapting back into a social world.
Besides, that’s what good friends do; help each other in times of need.