Caregiving is not simply a job or a career. It’s a lifestyle. Providing untold hours of services for a senior in an intimate capacity can consume a caregiver’s life to a such a degree that they may not realize it until the caregiving is over. What does one do after the loss of a patient? How does a caregiver move on, even after they have mourned or dealt with residual feelings of guilt?
Many caregivers decide to continue caregiving with new patients in different ways. Especially if a caregiver has been doing so for a long time, continuing on the same path can seem the right thing to do. It is common for caregivers to volunteer at nursing homes, and provide an escort for the residents there or to provide entertainment. Senior centers always need volunteers to help with projects. Hospice organizations always need compassionate companions. Volunteering in ways like this helps caregivers to form a bridge between the loss of their patient, who they were dedicated to, and a new, meaningful life afterward.
In other cases, some caregivers may want a complete change of pace. Losing a patient who they had cared for – potentially for years – can be a traumatic event, one with the power to change the course of their work forever. For caregivers who are accustomed to being useful, resourceful, and needed, it is often a struggle to find something else which is just as interesting and challenging.Volunteering can help.
There are homeless organizations, social groups such as the Lion’s Club, Rotary Club, and of course religious groups. There are garden clubs, artistic organizations, yoga and gym memberships. For the ‘intellectual’ there is always the library, or local book groups. These types of groups can provide the right mix of private time as well as involvement in the community for caregivers who want to be productive and helpful in a different way.
The challenge for caregivers is to avoid slipping into depression or listlessness after the loss of a patient. It can help to remind themselves that the senior in their care was provided for until the last day. Feelings of loss are natural, and will pass in time, turning into memories of happiness and love.
Whether caregivers decide to continue with this type of work or not, they should not find work they can hide behind. The work should be used as a tool to expand opportunities and to meet new people.