Thursday, Jul 24, 2014
Health

The waiting room


Published:

Commonsense CaregivingSometimes, quite unexpectedly, latent emotions entombed deep inside of me, ascend to the surface. Itís been almost five years since I lost my father but I still find myself grieving at times.

These unwelcome episodes can be induced by simply watching a particular movie, a television commercial or reading a sentimental paragraph in a book. Fighting off tears of emotion, there are times when I have to swallow hard in order to force these sorrowful feelings back down.

Among the many memories that continue to haunt me is one involving the period around the time of my fatherís final days. We were blessed with a few wonderful Hospice workers, but they kept advising me that my father wasnít going to make it through the day.

Well, they didnít know my father! They soon found it necessary to repeat themselves another fifteen days in a row!

If there was one thing my dad proved to everyone again and again, it was that he was never a quitter. The ups and downs of the last days of this disease were mentally and physically exhausting, to say the least. It was tearing me apart. By the time my father passed, I barely even knew my own name. Both my sister and I took shifts sleeping, if you could call it that. The rest of this precious time was spent tending to Dad and watching him wither away to the point where we could hardly recognize him.

This is a period of time experienced by countless caregivers that I like to call the "waiting room." Iím sure they identify with me when I say that I was afraid to leave the house for even a five minute trip to the store as I didnít want to forego being with my dad for his final breath.

It came to a point where I felt like I had a split personality. Part of me was praying that his Maker would hurry up and just take him and end the suffering. But this brought on a tidal wave of guilt. Well, let me tell you something; most every caregiver feels this way at one time or another. Itís a natural and sympathetic reaction to a loved oneís suffering. Donít torment yourself over this.

The other half of my mind was pleading for him not to go. Somewhere inside myself I believed that there was still a glimmer of hope and Dad would sit up and make a miraculous recovery. My heart was being torn in two. Between the fatigue from barely sleeping and the emotional roller coaster I was on, it was amazing I didnít come to my demise before my dear father did.

Please take my advice and donít go through this alone. Having someone with you to initiate a conversation or even cry with you will be a blessing. Talk about the happy times you shared with your loved one. The fact that you have someone else there gives you a chance to step outside for a minute and breathe in some fresh air. Trust me, it will be immeasurably comforting.

I personally know how difficult it is making phone call after phone call, informing family and friends that the end is either near or has now finally come. Try not to do everything yourself. Ask for help. Itís nearly impossible to think straight at a time like this. This is when family can be invaluable, pulling together and lending each other support.

I donít believe we ever get over losing a loved one. We just somehow learn to accept it.

The moment realization hits and you grasp that they are really gone, a whole list of new caregiver duties start to take over. Even if you thought you had all their final arrangements in order thereís always something that pops up and needs to be handled right away. This was maybe the most difficult period of my life, but when the funeral services were over, thatís when the true emptiness started setting in.


Gary Joseph LeBlanc was the primary caregiver of his father for a decade after he was diagnosed with Alzheimerís disease. He can be reached at us41books@bellsouth.net. His newly released book, ďManaging Alzheimerís and Dementia BehaviorsĒ, ďWhile I Still CanĒ and the expanded edition of, ďStaying Afloat in a Sea of Forgetfulness,Ē can be found at commonsensecaregiving.com.

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