I believe caregiving changes us forever. Much of the change is positive. We become more compassionate toward those who have physical and mental difficulties. We become more understanding when we see a person who is trying to cope in public with an unruly child or an adult who has dementia. We become larger people because we've experienced more difficulty. We've gone the distance, doing what we can to improve another's life, and we are better for it. The hard part can be letting go of a crisis state of mind even when it no longer relates to our new reality.
Yet, when we don't learn to let go of the stressors of caregiving once it's over, our physical and mental health may continue to suffer. Adjusting to a new – hopefully better – normal takes courage, insight, and time.
For me, the road to normalcy meant trekking backward through my mind to keep alive memories of the times before my loved ones became so vulnerable.
I don't discount the many years of caregiving nor do I minimize their neediness. I try to give myself credit for a job well done even though I know that I was imperfect as a caregiver, because every caregiver is imperfect.
Slowly, the warm memories of my elders and what they were like as I was growing up have regained their proper perspective in my mind and heart. These days, I think consciously of them less often, though I feel their spirits with me more. My new normal has brought me peace for the most part.
Minding Our Elders: Caregivers Share Their Personal Stories. “I hold onto your book as a life preserver and am reading it slowly on purpose...I don't want it to end.” ...Craig William Dayton, Film Composer
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