Are you a caregiver? You may not consider yourself a caregiver, but do you regularly:
Drive a family member, friend or neighbor to doctor's appointments?
Make meals for someone?
Help someone with household chores such as cleaning, grocery shopping, lawn care, etc?
Make regular phone calls to someone to "check in" on them?
Provide hands-on care, including bathing, help eating, toileting, or other help?
Help someone make decisions about medical decisions?
Assist someone with personal business affairs, such as bill paying?
If you answered yes to one or more of these questions you may be a family caregiver.
Caregivers provide support to someone who needs help. It doesn't matter how many hours per week are spent providing support. Caregivers may live with the person they are caring for, providing assistance with daily needs, or may visit the person weekly or call regularly. Being a caregiver involves an investment in time, energy and support.
Grief is our normal, natural, and necessary response to loss. Its flip-side, bereavement (or mourning), is the process of responding to, and ultimately surviving loss. Both grief and bereavement are individualized experiences, and experts say everyone's experience is different.
What it means to be a caregiver at the end of life
Dying is a natural part of life, and may be filled with mixed emotions, and times of reflection for both the dying person and caregiver. There are losses for both the person who is dying and the person who is the caregiver. Caregivers often experience a variety of feelings, including:
Loss-grieving the loss of the person who is sick, and feeling a sense of loss of your life before the illness.
Acceptance of what is happening, including your role as a caregiver with new demands and duties.
Letting go of hopes for a long-term future with the person who is sick, of life before being a caregiver.
Finding purpose and meaning in the experience. Providing care for someone who is dying can be personally rewarding even in the midst of grieving losses and balancing the demands of care giving.
As a caregiver you may need to provide for all aspects of your loved one's comfort. People who are near the end of life have complex needs so it is important to know various ways to provide support.