It’s been over a dozen years since I lost my father, but I occasionally find myself still feeling heartbroken at times.
These episodes of melancholy can be induced by watching a movie or a television commercial or reading a sentimental paragraph in a book that reminds me of him.
Among the many caregiving memories that linger with me is one involving the period around my father’s final days. We were blessed with a few wonderful hospice workers, but every day they would advise me that my Dad, probably wasn’t going to make it through that day! Well, they didn’t know my father! They actually found themselves repeat this 15 days in a row!
The ups and downs of his Alzheimer’s disease were mentally and physically exhausting. It was tearing me apart! By the end of those 15 days of warning that “this could be the last day,” I barely even knew my own name! My sister and I took shifts sleeping. The rest of the time was spent tending to dad, mostly holding his hand as he slowly withered away.
This is a period of time I call the “waiting room.” I’m sure other caregivers will identify with me when I say that I was afraid to leave the house even for a five-minute trip to the convenient store as I didn’t want to forgo being with my dad for his final breath!
Part of me was praying that his Maker would hurry up and just take him and end the distress. But this would immediately bring on a tidal wave of guilt. Most every caregiver feels this way at one time or another. It’s a natural and sympathetic reaction to a loved one’s difficult decline.
The other half of my mind was pleading for him not to go. Somewhere inside of myself I believed that there was still a glimmer of hope and Dad would sit up and make a miraculous recovery. Between the fatigue from barely sleeping and the emotional rollercoaster I was on, it was amazing I didn’t come to my own demise, for this was the end of a 12-year caregiving campaign. It is nearly impossible to think straight at a time like this.
Please take my advice and don’t go through this alone. Ask for help! Having someone with you to initiate a conversation or even cry with you will be a blessing. Have discussions about the happy times you shared with your loved one as well as what is going on during this most difficult of times.
I personally know how difficult it is making phone call after phone call informing family and friends that the end is near or has finally come.
When realization finally hits and you grasp that they are really gone, a whole list of new caregiving duties show up. Even if you thought you had all their final arrangements in order, there is always something that pops up and needs to be handled right away. This was one of the most difficult times of my life.
Take heart. In time you will heal inside. It is extremely important that you now begin taking care of yourself.
Personally, I don’t believe we ever get over losing a loved one. We just somehow learn to accept it
Gary Joseph LeBlanc
Dementia Spotlight Foundation