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Saying Goodbye to a Beloved Caregiver

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​By Elizabeth Shean

When I made the decision last October to relocate from Houston to my adopted hometown of Albuquerque, I knew the process would be hard on Mom. I knew the general disruption would be difficult for her to deal with, simply because dementia has robbed her of the ability to adapt to changes in her day-to-day life. And, gosh, has life changed.

As I write this, one week before the movers will come and load up our belongings, my home environment is in chaos. Boxes stacked three high contain all our carefully packaged worldly goods and compete for space with multiple trash bags sprawling on the floor, filled either with garbage or with donations for Goodwill. I’ve made sure to leave ample avenues of floor space for Mom to walk through, but in general the whole place has taken on an air of “hoarder chic.” This level of disorder has taken a mental toll on both of us.

Just two days ago, Mom stood in the kitchen, gesturing with a fat kaiser roll while wailing, “Where is the bread knife now?” Mom was nearly crying over something as small as a kitchen knife being out of place, but this is what the act of moving does to people. We all are anchored in life by physical objects and routine events. As these have disappeared during the moving process, our lives have become unmoored.

For the past several months, one grounding aspect of Mom’s routine was CAREGiver℠ Anita’s twice-weekly visit. Every Tuesday and Friday, Anita showed up to give Mom a shower, wash her clothes and generally dote on her by bringing cups of coffee and offering congenial conversation.

But now, of course, Mom is moving to another state. And that means letting go of Anita. Saying goodbye. The idea fills Mom with sorrow. Each time Anita is scheduled to visit, Mom sadly asks, “How many more times will she come now?” As of today, we’re down to two more visits.

I’ve noticed Anita preparing for the goodbye to Mom. She still gives hugs (which Mom adores), but she’s not as chatty as she used to be. She seems a bit more perfunctory about her tasks than she was before. As a nurse, I can imagine how difficult it is for a caregiver to bid farewell to a cherished client. And I have no doubt that Anita cherishes Mom: she demonstrated her affection in every interaction.

For her part, Mom has withdrawn from Anita a little bit. She declined a shower during the last visit. She doesn’t participate in conversation as much with Anita now.

It’s painful to watch this dance of disengagement between two people who care about each other. Despite the inevitability of a caregiving relationship ending, it is hard on the parties involved.

I suggested to Mom that we buy a nice “thank you” card for Anita. It’s a small gesture, but I hope it will leave Mom feeling good about the way the relationship ended.
 
As I watch Mom experiencing the pain of letting go of Anita, I try to maintain my optimism that good things are yet to come. My hope lies in finding an equally wonderful Home Instead Senior Care® CAREGiver in Albuquerque. I will keep you posted on the journey!

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