Caregivers and Losses

When we hear the word “caregivers“, many ideas may come to mind, depending on your own situation and history. The reality is that, at some point in our lives, we are either a caregiver or someone has taken care of us or will in the future. In the context of this message, I want to talk about Caregivers and Losses because it is a reality we cannot avoid, as it is the reality of many people. According to Gary Barg, there are 65.7 million caregivers in the United States who are dealing with some aspect of caregiving. Barg is the creator of the online community and is one of the professionals who participated in the documentary Life at The End. Caring in the Face of Loss, in which I also had the privilege to participate. The following mini interview is included in such documentary:

Caregiving can be challenging and painful but only when acknowledging a situation can we do something about it. Acceptance is the next step and it does not come easily, but it is crucial to accept we’re confronting a new situation. As caregivers, we can choose to do it with love or to regret what has happened to us. Acceptance does not mean to give up. Acceptance means not denying what is happening so you can plan how to handle it. You are taking care of a loved one now; you are a caregiver – you accept that. Many of us take care of our parents, and in the United States this situation has tripled since 1994 (MetLife Mature Market Institute). Once our parents reach a certain age or something unexpected happens, everything changes. This, many times, as Gail Sheehy in her book “Passages in Caregiving,” states, can begin with The Call. I can attest to that because it is what happened to me three years ago. I had a call at 11:20am on a Sunday morning from the lady who took care of my mom. She said, “your mother fell and she is bleeding.” I did not know what to expect or what the outcome would be, but the first thought that came to my mind was “this cannot be happening.” For a minute, I was in denial. This reaction (because it is not a response) according to Sheehy, happens to most of us. From that day on, I became a caregiver and my life changed. I chose to welcome it with love and gratitude. Let’s keep in mind that as caregivers we may not be able to change the event, but we can control how we respond and we all have that nurturing aspect in our hearts. Nataly Rubinstein, the author of “Alzheimer’s Disease and Other Dementias. The Caregivers Complete Survival Guide” asserts: As humans we are programmed to care. The people who choose to be caregivers have made a choice that they will care despite the hardships and sacrifices that they will make.

I recently knew of a wonderful online support community for Caregivers. It is called Caregiver Village. One of the greatest services they offer is the opportunity to share your story as caregiver and offer many helpful resources to guide you through this transition.

On the other hand, when we are caregivers sometimes we forget about taking care of ourselves and it should not be that way. As important as it is to take care of others, it is important to take care of our needs. Even in airplanes we are asked to put our oxygen mask on before assisting others. This should tell us something. Some of the clients I work with are caregivers themselves. Most of them complain about the changes in their lifestyle, how they have to juggle between taking care of their loved one, the rest of the family, and their jobs. Many full-time caregivers stop having a social life or give themselves time to relax or divert because they either may not have the time or feel guilty about it. It is here where they need to have the plan and find ways to educate themselves on what is available to them. There are many things one can do. Information is everywhere. We just need to look for it. A great resource we have in Miami for caregivers is The Caregiver Resource Center provided by United Homecare.

In addition to finding information and becoming educate on it, we need to know how to deal with some emotions that may arise, such as fear, stress, or anxiety. The following is a list of things that can help you release your emotions and deal with the situation in a more meaningful manner:

Write in a journal
• Exercise
• Share with others
• Learn to prioritize
• Be patient and compassionate
• Learn to reframe your thoughts
• And…always keep these emotions in your heart: forgiveness, gratitude and love.

Remember Your Life Has Meaning! Speaker, Author, Loss & Grief Coach


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