Over two months ago, I had written a guest post that was published on the psychological wellness blog Make It Ultra (MIU) titled, Personal Reflection: Caring for an Elderly Patient. I told a story about the time was helping to care for my father who has a Type A personality as he was undergoing some health problems and I had offered some advice in the form of 3 lessons I had learned from taking care of my elderly parent with Type-A personality.
After writing that guest post I began to remember, that when you are a caregiver to a sick, disabled, elderly patient you tend to get wrapped up in the day-to-day responsibility of basically running their lives. You begin to develop a level of tunnel vision, just trying to get their affairs taken care of from one day to the next. That you may not take the time to stop and think about that with everything in life as there is beginning and unfortunately there is an end.
At the beginning when you are a caregiver to an elderly loved one, either if it is your spouse, mother, father, brother, aunt, uncle, guardian, or friend you and your loved one are new to the whole experience. Everyone is trying to get accustomed to all the changes that are happening. The patient is also trying to cope with every aspect of the loss of their physical, financial, and mental independence. The caregiver is trying to balance the entire infrastructure of the patient’s, their home lives, and their work schedules. The beginning of the long, arduous process of going in and out of the hospital, rest homes, rehab, and other secondary care facilities, enduring surgeries, and multiple treatments can be tiring, but bearable. However, as time go on, the responsibility of the running up and down the road, scheduling the dozens of doctor’s appointments, organizing paperwork, prescriptions, paying stacks of doctor bills, the handling of their property, possessions, making sure their will is in order, and the list can go on and on. It can become completely and utterly exhausting. Moreover, this process can last for years, but I am a firm believer that all this effort is worth it and when it is performed out of love, with commitment, and tireless dedication. For a person you love and care about the difficult struggle can be worth it.
Then suddenly, as unpredictable life can be, you will never know when the end is going come. One day you will have to say goodbye to the loved one you have been fighting to take care of for so long.
About one month ago, my father and I had gone to a local hospital to respectfully give our presence, prayers, strength, and support to two family friends whose beloved mother who was in her mid-80’s lying in her hospital bed dying. Who quietly and peacefully reached the end of her journey one year to the day after being admitted to a nursing home with multiple ongoing health problems. Her estate, funeral arrangements, and who would inherit her belongings was carefully discussed, planned, written down, accepted, and anticipated, but when the moment of her death came, her sons were forced to say their final good-bye. That good-bye was no less painful causing everyone to accept the finality her loss brought. For her two children it meant the end of running up and down the road to the nursing home she was in, rushing her to hospital all hours of the day or night, disagreements with her about what decisions needed to be made about her affairs, and slowing watching her lose her freedom and independence as she grew sicker and sicker. It also meant the mother whose presence in their lives might have become lesser and lesser throughout the course of her sickness; however, she was still alive and was still their mother. And, the moment she passed her presence was missed.
Two days later, I stood outside for her carefully planned graveside funeral and home going service that was scheduled to the letter to her handwritten instructions that required minimum fuss, barely any flowers, and a very simple no frills but well-made casket. As the pastor of the church she had attended for over 50 years preached her eulogy, I watched as a lifetime of family and friends gathered around the grave site grieving, being comforted by her final words she had written to comfort her sons and all of her loved ones and reflecting on her life; as an active, dedicated, and hardworking Christian, beloved mother, and caring friend to many people.
I believe that throughout the hustle and bustle, of being an active caregiver to our elderly loved ones. Their are times that they can feel as if they are being an exceptionally heavy burden to us. Especially if they become severely disabled, we tend to lose sight of how important and valuable their love, work, and contributions they have made in our lives, our communities, and how much they truly mean to us. Until it is time to say, that final goodbye. Then as that first wave of the grief process begins to hit you and settle down upon your heart, after you realize the entire process of taking care of them is over; you can take comfort in the fact, that you did your very best for them while they were alive.
If you take away anything from this article, if you are a caregiver or believe you may suddenly have to take on the responsibility of being a caregiver to your elderly loved one in the future I would encourage you to appreciate them for who they are and whatever state they’re health is in. Because, as in the words of my dearly departed mother, “You will miss me when I am gone.” And, you know what, I sure do.