Many Alzheimer’s caregivers’ lives become sidetracked—friendships, activities, club memberships, and sometimes, even careers are suspended. Family vacations are postponed, family weddings and anniversary celebrations are missed, birthday parties are cancelled, and children’s and grandchildren’s graduations often go unattended.
For us, the greatest loss occurred during that difficult first caregiving year. My own mother was diagnosed with cancer, and died within the year. I wasn’t there to help; my sisters and father graciously assumed all of the caregiving. They never complained that I was not there to help during the final painful days. Their loving caregiving, coupled with Hospice support, allowed my mother to stay in her Connecticut home until she died. They always reassured me that they understood I had to stay in San Diego with Katharine, but I know it was difficult for them. Both of my sisters work full-time and have families of their own. Hospice workers greatly eased the burden for them, but I know that they would have appreciated my help. I was unhappy to have missed being there.
There is always sadness and loss that accompanies caregivers’ lives. The costs of protracted caregiving are high for everyone in the family in terms of the emotional toll extracted from disturbed family relationships, absentee parenting, or work-family conflicts. In addition to these emotional costs, financial costs can quickly deplete a family’s resources.