After everything you as a caregiver have endured, in the end the reality is that life goes on. Your days will without a doubt, roll into nights. The Earth will still revolve around our Sun in a year’s time. None of this will stop; it just may feel like it.

Deep in your heart you will most likely never stop missing your loved one after they are gone. You just learn to live around that hole that death has left inside you.

I was actually born into the role of being a caregiver. My oldest sister was born mentally challenged and epileptic. So soon after the time I could walk and talk I was promoted to “big brother status,” cast into the role of watcher and protector; I kept this position until she passed last year.

You wouldn’t think a seasoned caregiver like myself would have gone through the aftereffect of caregiving, but I did. So the saying is true, “It can happen to the best of us.”

Learning styles differ. Some people never learn a thing by being told what to do, and have to go out and actually experience everything firsthand. This is one of the reasons why the general public can never truly grasp what caregiving is all about without experiencing it firsthand for themselves. Here’s the answer: It’s all about love and sacrifices.

You may get a sense of not knowing how to move on without a departed loved one. Put this aside. I want you to be able to look in a mirror and see that heroic person that worked feverishly hard for so many years making sure your loved one had a better quality of life. Stare deeply into your reflection to the point where you see all that inner strength. It’s still inside you! You just may have to dust it off a little.

Mistakes of a lifetime are, essentially, lessons. Unfortunately, some of them must be repeated before they really sink in.

Suddenly, I found myself facing round two, of being a fulltime dementia caregiver for my Mom right after my Dad’s passing. She was starting to live with vascular dementia and other health issues. However, this time around my stress load has diminished greatly. I attribute this very largely to all my own past caregiving experience. The education I received from caring for my dad with Alzheimer’s has now become invaluable in caring for my mom.

In addition, I now know what to look out for in the end. There was no question it would still be extremely difficult, but those nasty aftereffects I experienced before, were diminished greatly. They now had to bounce off of someone that was cognizant of the hardships. Lesson learned!

It wasn’t easy, of course. I found myself, once again, dealing with isolation, hardly leaving my property. I recognize all the hardships but was better prepared this time around. I’m extremely blessed I didn’t have both of my parents living with dementia at the same time like so many other caregivers I’ve talked too.

Whatever you do, my friends, never, ever lose your sense of humor. Find ways to laugh and laugh hard.  It’s not only healthy but it will help to hold back an ocean of tears.

Gary Joseph LeBlanc, CDCS

Director of Education

Dementia Spotlight Foundation