How Much Can a Caregiver Give?

Is There a Limit to How Much a Caregiver Can Give?

how-much-can-a-caregiver-giveSometimes it can feel like there is no end to the needs of our care receivers, but have you ever wondered if there is a limit to how much a caregiver can give?

Last night I spoke at an event sponsored by Kensington Place, a beautiful, new memory care community in Redwood City, California. I talked about caregiver anger, guilt, depression and grief, along with strategies for communicating with people who have Alzheimer’s and other dementia-related diseases.

Afterward, a nice couple, who appeared to be in their mid-fifties, came up to thank me for the presentation. The husband said, “We’ve lost three of our parents in the last year. We’ve gone through both kinds of depression that you talked about – situational and clinical. We’ve also experienced preparatory grief and grief after death.”

He went on to say that his wife’s mother is the only parent remaining, and her Alzheimer’s is now advancing rapidly. He said the thing he appreciated about the most about my presentation was the subtitle on one slide that said, “You’re doing the best you can.”

He said, “I tell my wife that all the time! She always feels like she’s not doing enough. She thinks she ought to be able to do more. She wants to make it better, but I keep telling her there are some things she just can’t change.”

My heart went out to them both. I could feel their sadness, their loss, their love for their parents and for one another.

I said, “You’re right. We do desperately want to make everything okay for our loved ones, but there are some things we simply cannot fix, change or control. There isn’t a cure for old age or Alzheimer’s, but if you do the best you can to love, support and help them as they go through the final chapter of their lives, it’s all you can do.”

Progressive and degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s will will break your heart in a thousand different ways. Nothing can erase the pain of witnessing the steady physical and cognitive decline of someone you love, but if you can be there to keep them safe, if you can release your attachment to who they used to be and how they once lived, and if you can help them find a little comfort, joy and peace in their lives right now, it will be the best you can do under the circumstances. It may not be what you want, but if you can help someone you care about reach the end of their lives knowing that they aren’t alone, that they are loved and that their lives mattered, I believe it will be enough.