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My Loved One Has Been Diagnosed with Parkinson’s… Now What?
With Bernice Detig, Parkinson’s Foundation
Wednesday, April 24th, 5:30pm-7pm. Click HERE & RSVP Today!
Open Mobile Menu
caregiver grief

Navigating Caregiver Grief: Recognizing, Coping, and Growing

Caregiving is a rewarding but challenging role that often comes with complex emotions. One aspect of caregiving that is frequently overlooked is caregiver grief. 

These emotional impacts can be profound and long-lasting, making it vital for caregivers to recognize and address their grief.

At The Kensington Sierra Madre, caregivers are just as much a part of our community as the residents and we aim to give them the resources they need to provide the best care. 

That’s why we recently hosted the event, “Caregiver Loss & Grief: Beyond Blue,” for caregivers to connect with other caregivers and learn valuable coping strategies. 

Our insightful discussion was led by Dr. Navarro, Gerontologist and Program Manager of the Community Resource Center for Aging at USC Verdugo Hills Hospital

Discussion topics included:

  • Moving through Grief 
  • Coping with Feelings that Surface 
  • Ongoing Growth 
  • Stress Management 
  • Relationship Changes 
  • Your Journey Forward

In this article, we’ll provide an overview of the event discussion topics surrounding caregiver grief.

Our promise is to love and care for your family as we do our own.

Why caregivers grieve—what is caregiver grief?

Caregiver grief is a complex emotion in response to providing care for a loved one with a chronic illness, disability, or age-related decline. This grief can manifest at any time during the caregiving journey and can encompass sadness, anger, and guilt.

What does caregiver grief look like?

As a loved one’s health declines, caregivers may experience a loss of emotional connection due to changes in verbal and non-verbal communication

Additionally, caregiving responsibilities can be isolating, leaving caregivers feeling alone in their struggles. 

Strategies for maintaining a sense of connection with their own lives include reaching out to friends and family or joining a caregiver support group, which can help alleviate feelings of loneliness.

These challenges can be particularly profound when caring for someone with dementia or other cognitive impairments. 

Coping with these changes requires patience, understanding, and discovering new ways to connect emotionally with your loved one.

Caregiving for a spouse

The loss of companionship can be especially difficult for spousal caregivers who may feel like they have lost their partner in life. 

Balancing caregiving duties and maintaining a romantic relationship can be a significant challenge for spousal caregivers. 

Changes in physical and emotional intimacy can lead to feelings of loss and grief. 

Open communication about changing dynamics and finding new ways to express affection can help couples navigate this difficult aspect of caregiving.

Familial caregivers

Caregiving often leads to shifts in family dynamics and roles, with adult children taking on parental responsibilities or siblings becoming primary caregivers. 

These changes can be emotionally challenging and may require adjustments in relationships within the family unit. 

As with most parts of caregiving, practice open communication, flexibility, and a willingness to adapt to new roles to smoothly transition to this new family dynamic.

How caregivers can cope with difficult feelings that surface

Caregivers must acknowledge and express their grief to begin the healing process. 

  • Seeking support from friends, family, or a professional counselor can provide a safe space to process emotions. 
  • Self-reflection and self-compassion can also help caregivers validate their feelings and experiences.
  • Therapy and counseling can be invaluable resources for caregivers struggling with grief. A trained therapist can provide tools and strategies for coping with the emotional challenges of caregiving. 
  • Support groups and community resources can also offer a sense of connection and understanding from others who have experienced similar struggles.

Ongoing personal growth

Caregiving is a journey filled with challenges and changes. Recognizing personal growth through these challenges can help caregivers find meaning and purpose in their roles. 

Embracing change as an opportunity for growth and learning can lead to a more positive and resilient outlook on caregiving.

To continue growing and thriving as a caregiver, it’s essential to prioritize self-care. 

Caregivers can maintain their well-being by:

  • Setting boundaries
  • Identifying priorities
  • Practicing stress-relief techniques 
  • Caring for their own nutrition and rest
  • Exercising 

Cultivating resilience and adaptability can also help caregivers grow personally and navigate the ever-changing landscape of caregiving.

Stress management

Recognizing the signs of caregiver burnout is crucial for addressing stress before it becomes unmanageable. 

Burnout signs can include: 

  • Exhaustion
  • Irritability
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Difficulty concentrating 

Caregivers manage stress more effectively by incorporating stress-relief techniques, such as deep breathing, meditation, or exercise.

Caregivers often put their needs last, leading to burnout and emotional exhaustion. 

Taking breaks, delegating tasks, and creating a support network can help caregivers balance their responsibilities and their well-being. 

Prioritizing self-care is not selfish; it’s essential for providing the best possible care to loved ones.

Relationship changes

Caregiving can lead to significant changes in family dynamics, with some family members taking on more responsibilities than others. 

Open communication and a willingness to work together can help families navigate these shifts and build a collaborative caregiving approach. Recognizing and appreciating each family member’s contributions can foster a sense of unity and support.

Despite the challenges of caregiving, it’s important to maintain a healthy relationship with the care recipient. 

Find new ways to cultivate joy and connection, and focus on the person rather than the illness. This approach can help caregivers preserve a sense of closeness and meaning in their relationships.

Your journey forward

Caregiving is an ever-evolving journey, with new challenges and opportunities for growth at every turn. Acknowledging this reality can help caregivers approach their roles with flexibility and adaptability. 

As caregivers continue on their journeys, it’s essential to prioritize their own well-being and seek support when needed.

To all the caregivers reading this: Remember that your well-being matters. You are not alone in your struggles, and it is okay to ask for help. 

Prioritizing your physical, emotional, and mental health is not selfish; being the best version of yourself is necessary to provide the best care for your loved one. 

Take time for yourself, seek support, and remember your efforts are deeply valued.

Finding support and resources at The Kensington

The Kensington Sierra Madre is here to support you on your caregiving journey. 

Our dedicated team is always available to provide guidance and support for both residents and caregivers alike—don’t hesitate to reach out for help when you need it.

When caregiving becomes too much, The Kensington Sierra Madre is here to love and care for your family as we would our own. 

Schedule a tour of our beautiful community and learn more about how we can support your loved one and your caregiving journey.

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