Posted on February 15, 2011 by

Aftereffects of Caregiving

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.

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  • LaDawn said:

    "My mother in law passed here at home Feb 19, 2011. My husbands brothers are out of state, and til the end, believed she was "doing this for attention" even though we video taped her doctors appointments, and documented her deterioration. My husband is disabled, so the caregiving was up to me..and I had to give up my long time job I loved in order to care for her, and finally found a full time job in August. The family doesn't realize the sacrifices made, or how near bankrupt we are...they wouldn't help even with her funeral expenses..and made horrible hurtful accusations to and about us....although it isn't right or acceptable behavior from family, it is a comfort to know that we are not the only famiy to experience this. In fact, I am pretty certain my husbands oldest brother is in early alzheimers...he exhibits many of the symptoms...but I find it hard to sympothize with him or for him considering what he did to mom and to our family. Thank you for the encouragement.....blessings..........".

  • Debbie McKinney said:

    "It's been a year since my Mom's death. Although she was in a nursing home for 20 yrs., I still was the caregiver. I'm having a difficult time carrying on. I thought before she died, that I had mourned for those 20 years, thinking I had lost her then. But now, it's difficult.".

  • Gary Joseph LeBlanc said:

    "I had a sister who helped me, but she was extremely fragile. She was a nurse by trade which would make you think she be use to dealing with such a situation. But seeing her father deteriorate, had her constantly breakdown into tears. So I was very conservative about when I would ask for her help. I didn’t want to lose the only backup I had. But I will say, at the very end, she really stepped up to the plate. There comes a day when you suddenly go from being a caregiver to a twenty-four hour nurse and I don’t know if I would have made it through that period without her.".

  • dh said:

    "ok gary i posted earlier and u replied,thank you for advice so tonight i order your book--comfortable with your experience, but, b/4 this book arrives- so i havent read yet , not that it matters, b/c i feel everything u went thru...but were u alone to care 4 u're dad or did u have help... just mentioning b/c i have 7 other siblings, 5 local and seem only 3 siblings are really on board...most distant siblings think we are blowing truth out of waters, b/c when they call her everything is fine".

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