Since Fairhaven is kicking off the Oliver Halsell Caregiver Award this week, I wanted to talk a little bit about caregivers and grief.
You do not have to be related to someone to feel grief when they die nor does the person have to be dead for you to feel grief. If you are a caregiver for someone with a terminal illness or you know someone who has been diagnosed with one, you know that the person will be gone soon. Even though they may still be with you, you begin to feel the effects of grief and loss. Mourning your loss before the person is actually gone is common.
On the Family Caregiver Alliance's website (caregiver.org), I found some very interesting information .
If you are the primary caregiver of someone you love, this experience can affect every aspect of your life for some time. It is natural to grieve the death of a loved one before, during and after the actual time of their passing. The process of accepting the unacceptable is what grieving is all about.
If someone has had a prolonged illness or serious memory impairment, family members may begin grieving the loss of the person's "former self" long before the time of death. This is sometimes referred to as "anticipatory grief." Anticipating the loss, knowing what is coming, can be just as painful as losing a life. Family members may experience guilt or shame for "wishing it were over" or seeing their loved one as already "gone" intellectually. It is important to recognize these feelings as normal. Ultimately, anticipatory grief is a way of allowing us to prepare emotionally for the inevitable. Preparing for the death of a loved one can allow family members to contemplate and clear unresolved issues and seek out the support of spiritual advisors, family and friends. And, depending on the impaired person's intellectual capacity, this can be a time to identify your loved one's wishes for burial and funeral arrangements.
We already know the benefits of pre-planning. Now there is an additional reason to do this. It can have a positive affect on your grief process to know that these arrangements are taken care of. Helping with the process of pre-planning also helps you to accept the inevitable. Families with loved ones in assisted living often rely on social workers and other caregivers to help them to know what to do when their loved one passes. Many caregivers offer referrals to funeral homes so families can pre-plan for their loved one.
At Fairhaven we have PR staff who do outreach to assisted living care facilities to talk about the benefits of pre-planning. The staff gives seminars to educate caregivers and family members about what they can expect when a loved one dies. We also have pre-planning counselors who visit these facilities to help families with their pre-arrangements. Our staff is quite knowledgeable about the benefits to the living of pre-planning for those who are ill, not the least of which is related to the grief they feel at having to make those arrangements.
Grief affects everyone at some time in their life. Sometimes the grief is stronger than we anticipate or occurs when we least expect it as in the case of a caregiver whose charge has not yet passed. If you are a caregiver who is experiencing feelings of loss and grief, don't be afraid to reach out for help. There are links to grief support groups on Fairhaven's website and the Family Caregiver Alliance website is filled with resources and information to help you through this time of loss. I wish I had had these resources when I was caring for my ill parents twenty-five years ago. It would have made a rough time much more bearable.
Just remember that you're not alone, help is out there and there are lots of things you can do to get through the grief process whether your loved one or your charge has passed or not. I hope this information and these links help you to find your way through your grief and loss.
The Oliver Halsell
Caregiver Award pays tribute to Orange County caregivers whose kindness
and dedication to serving others is inspirational. These courageous
individuals go above and beyond their job description to serve with the
utmost care and compassion. Fairhaven’s Oliver Halsell Caregiver Award
winners come from many fields including private care, hospice, social
work, counseling, assisted living, nursing, therapy and volunteer work.
For more information, please visit Fairhaven Memorial Park's website
under Community - Caregiver Award.
Charity Gallardo, Blog Coordinator – Charity has been the Network Administrator for the Fairhaven Family Group for 13 years. When she’s not assisting staff with their computer issues, she is a published author of romance novels, an award winning cover artist and a blogger.