Taking care of someone with Alzheimer’s is very challenging. It makes the caretaker feel alone and isolated, without a life of their own. Often, in couples, it kills the caretaker as well—and sometimes the caretaker dies first.
It certainly took a toll on my mother. In my father’s last year, they had in-home care. The relief for my mother was obvious; for the next three years she seemed to get younger and younger—she was getting herself and her life back. With the extra help, I imagine that she could begin to focus on her own steps of the grief and mourning process. She could still hold on to my father, her husband, and all she knew him to be while accepting his Alzheimer’s and what was left to come.
Losing a loved one is always hard.
What do they say? That it takes two years to get over that? Sometimes it takes a lot longer.
But the way a person passes has an effect, too.
My uncle had a stroke. Four days later he was dead.
It was much too sudden—one moment he was fully alive, and then he was gone. But he didn’t suffer; and there was a quick finality to it.
My other uncle starved himself—his choice. It wasn’t more than two weeks between when he started and when he died. Not long, but long enough for me to say good-bye.
Something lingering is more difficult. There are so many ups and downs, so many hopes and discouragements.
Someone declining with dementia or Alzheimer’s is particularly difficult. The person is there but not there, and sometimes they are almost as they were. You are losing them, mourning them, bereaving them a little every day—and sometimes it goes on for years.
That’s a long time to grieve. Sometimes you’re going to get angry at the person, especially if you’re the one being the caretaker. It’s as if your life has to be put on hold, to take care of this other person. Yes, you love them, but you can’t do this alone. And, you sometimes wonder, why is it taking so long? And to what end? Is there such thing a as a healthy grieving process?