Alzheimer's blog

'Letting go' can empower caregivers

By Angela Lunde June 3, 2010

Last week, the support group I facilitate included a small group of veteran caregivers — a mix of husbands, wives and daughters caring for a loved one with dementia.

They shared ideas about creative ways to keep their loved ones safe, engaged, and generally well cared for. They spoke candidly about navigating the horrendous legal and financial challenges that are imminent for many in this situation.

Near the end of this hour long conversation, one of the caregiving daughters (I'll call her Fern) said, "By default, most of us have become adept in this area of caregiving, but in the end, we all just have a house of cards right?"

These caregivers, like many of you, have become artisans in the ways of crafting their "house". They've found the tools and resources they need to methodically construct each piece of the caregiving journey. Along the way, they've taken on new roles and responsibilities and the game is in constant motion — all in an effort to keep the foundation strong and their lives balanced and stable.

Yet, it takes just one card too many, one windy day, one unanticipated nudge and the whole house comes falling down.

I think the lesson in Fern's words reflect that no matter what we do, life is beyond our control. In a sense, we're powerless. We all know this at some level, but the way we think, act and feel many times contradicts this basic truth. However, if we can accept imperfection, lighten our expectations, and let go of the steering wheel we can become empowered. With this empowerment, we (or you as caregivers) begin the real work of taking care of ourselves.

"We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the life that is waiting for us." — Author Joseph Campbell

Jun. 03, 2010