Your Full-Time Caregiving Journey Is Over. What Now?

Friday, February 19, 2021

It’s finally here – the day your loved one moves into a memory care community. You’ve done the research, made the hard choices and are ready for your loved one to receive the caring, compassionate assistance he or she needs. It’s a relief, yes. But you’ve been a caregiver for so long … what happens now?

“I’ve talked with many family members who suddenly find themselves feeling adrift and anxious once their loved one has moved into memory care,” says Erica Labb, Executive Director of Bridges® by EPOCH at Westford. “This is a perfectly normal part of the process, although it does come as a surprise to many. It’s important to remember that you have sustained a very real loss. Your identity as a caregiver has shifted dramatically.”

After your loved one moves to memory care you need to give yourself the space and permission to grieve. Instead of feeling guilty or ashamed about your emotions, open yourself to what you’re experiencing. Shoving your feelings aside, says Erica, will only make things worse.

In other words, she says, be kind to yourself. “Your emotions are valid and real, and you’re allowed to feel what you’re feeling,” she reminds caregivers.

Use healthy coping mechanisms.

When we are sad, depressed or just don’t feel good, we tend to turn to things that make us feel better, even just for a moment. Think guilty-pleasure movies, comfort food, alcohol or sugary snacks. It’s okay to indulge once in a while, but if you find yourself turning more and more to these coping mechanisms to get through the day, that’s a warning sign. Much like pushing your emotions to the side, unhealthy coping mechanisms tend to backfire and hurt you more down the road. They can also lead to addiction, physical or emotional illness or other long-term negative reactions. It’s important to understand and remember that grief can be a long journey, but the only way to get through it is to experience it fully and come to terms with your thoughts and emotions. Instead of using poor coping mechanisms, turn to things like exercise, therapy or journaling to help work through what you’re feeling in a positive and healthy manner.

Talk with others.

Support groups have long been suggested as an excellent resource for caregivers because it surrounds them with other people in similar positions who won’t “judge” what you’re experiencing. Now that you’re no longer a caregiver, you may think you can no longer attend support groups like this. Not so. These groups often have individuals who have experienced the caregiving loss just like you are going through currently. While it may feel scary or awkward to talk about your grief and be vulnerable, it will be a boon to be around others who understand what you’re feeling and can provide coping tips as well as supportive shoulders.

Embrace a new routine.

As a caregiver, the majority of your routine was spent caring for your loved one. Now, you may find that you’re bored, anxious and don’t know what to do with all your spare time. Understand that you will and can develop a new routine to fill your days that will be engaging, fulfilling, familiar and comfortable. Take some time by deciding what would be fulfilling to you each day. This can change from day to day – you always have the chance and opportunity to change things up if you wish. Coming up with new routines will allow you to embrace your new normal and move forward in a healthy way.

Discover new (or old) favorite activities.

Caregiving is an all-encompassing role, and you may have ended up putting your interests and activities on the back burner. Now is the perfect time to take a look at those interests and return to them. Or you may find that you want to take up an entirely new activity or hobby. It’s up to you. Finding something interesting to fill your time will help make your days more enjoyable.

Nurture your relationships.

This is the time to embrace the roles and relationships that were part of your life before you became a caregiver. You are a friend, spouse, parent and a child. Now that your loved one is being cared for in the best possible way, you can unshoulder the burden of “caregiver” and instead focus on making meaningful memories with him or her. It may feel strange, sad or awkward to visit your loved one in their new home, but in time, it will become more natural.

“Although your role as a full-time caregiver may be over, you have a new opportunity to embrace life and your relationships in a meaningful, healthy way,” says Erica. “With time, caring and understanding, you’ll find a new rhythm and meaning as you manage your time and care for yourself and those around you.”

Comprehensive Memory Care

Bridges® by EPOCH at Westford delivers highly specialized memory care assisted living for those with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia. Our resident-centered approach focuses on providing dignity, purpose and moments of joy in daily life for those in all stages of the disease. We offer a wellness-focused lifestyle that centers around a resident’s current skills and abilities, not those that have been lost to dementia.

Life-Enriching Programs

Our team members take an active role in getting to know each resident on a personal level to deliver programming that is meaningful to them. We account for the preferences, interests, needs and abilities of our residents to connect with them and encourage their involvement in daily life and boost self-esteem.

Warm, Residential Atmosphere

Featuring a stunning residential design, every inch of our community has been designed to benefit those with memory loss. Attributes such as soft colors, directional cues, aromatherapy and interactive life stations create a soothing and secure environment where residents feel comfortable, safe and at home.

Contact us today to learn more.

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