Long Distance Caregiving – Emotional Dynamics

Living with Alzheimers and/or dementia causes a host of emotions—especially for caregivers.hands heart

Mom’s emotions aren’t that difficult. She lives in a contented land where all she has to worry about is where she put her teeth during the night and can she find her underwear the next day. Even then, somebody helps her with those questions.

But for the rest of us—whew boy! Until I entered this journey with my siblings, I had no idea of the emotions that might swirl around us.

As the LDC, there is of course, the emotion of guilt. But it is a false guilt, a self-condemnation because I can’t be in Oklahoma all the time, helping with Mom.

At the same time, I’m glad for my life in Kansas and the work I do. I’m proud of the ministry and the incredible women I help as well as my growing coaching practice and my writing life.

Guilt raises its ugly head whenever something happens, and I’m too far away to help. Then when I visit Mom, guilt rides home with me because I can drive away and my siblings can’t.

Another emotion that affects us is grief. One possible advantage of dealing with Alzheimers is that we grieve little by little rather than in one traumatic explosion. With each change and every increase in confusion, with each memory lapse, we grieve a little more.

We understand that these lapses will grow in frequency until Mom no longer knows who we are.

We also know that some day, Mom will stop breathing and this horrid journey will be over. So we don’t have to deal with a terrible shock of a tragic death. Mom dies a little bit every day, right in front of us.

Each time I drive to Oklahoma and then back to Kansas, it takes about 10 days to process my emotions, journal about them and return to some place of normalcy. I can only imagine the emotional toll on my siblings.

I don’t know if the emotions will ever ease, or if we’ll just grow in the need for more grace.

But that’s why it’s important that caregivers take care of ourselves—whether we’re right in the thick of it or dealing with it long distance.

Emotions can tear us apart or make us stronger. I hope to finish well.

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