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My mother passed away this week, and I’m lost. I’ve had her with me 15 years 24/7 the last two. What little money I received was for taking care of her. I don’t even know where to start. I know I need a job, but the thought of starting over at 58 is a little daunting right now. Taking care of her was one of the hardest things I have ever done, the emotional roller coaster....But now that she is gone I’m so grateful that I did. The lessons I learned. I want to thank this forum, you helped me through so many tuff times, letting me know I wasn’t alone, that my feelings were normal. Thank you, I will continue to send love and support to all caregivers, for you are all truly angels.

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There's so much wisdom in this forum. We are so fortunate to have the benefit of each other's experience. I'm going to take a different approach and draw your attention to the complexity of grief, the isolation of caregiving, and the fear of change.

Grief is not just about the feeling of loss, sadness and the unrelenting missing of someone. It has complexity and nuance. It also has some unfortunate neighbors than can include depression, guilt, regret, self-recrimination, relief, fear of the future, and so on. Which ones we visit is unique to our personalities but it will help you to know which sub-currents are at work, The advice to pause and breathe would be so helpful to you to be able to gain clarity on all of the emotions at play. You are understandably adrift right now. Walk, talk, journal, sleep, or do whatever slows your mind down.

Caregiving is a notoriously isolating and lonely pursuit for many. It sometimes separates us from a support network that might provide us with a listening presence, hands-on assistance, or a needed respite. Our bodies are not meant to live in overwhelm and a sea of stress hormones but many of us have become habituated to it for lack of alternatives. When our caregiver job comes to a close, independent of our sad emotions, we are still dealing with habituated behavior that has no realistic outlet, yet. I like the suggestions that you begin to enlarge your network through social, spiritual, and recreational avenues that address your habit of being on duty 24/7. Those same people will turn into contacts and leads for employment opportunities when you have a bit of physical and emotional recovery under your belt.

Change toward the unknown often triggers our fear because most of us don't like ambiguity. In your current state of exhaustion and recent loss you are in what I would call a "high soothe" state--you need more comforting and assuring than challenge and uncertainty. Ultimately, your finances will dictate how quickly your have to seek paid employment but I like the idea of easing into it. Incremental and small steps are far easier to take than giant leaps. I had a friend who was remarkably adept at handling change and I asked her what her secret was. It was so elegantly simple: if you don't like how something ends up, you can change it again. I hope that lightens the ominous burden of thinking that you have to decide it all and get it right once. It's not like caregiving.

A final word on how to start when your feel stuck in a feeling of overwhelm-just do what's in front of you. Pick one thing and do it. Then pick the next one. You can't empty the whole basket at once so proceed in manageable steps.

Lastly, have a good day. I don't mean any disrespect for your grief but only that you truly need to have a nice day because you probably haven't one in a long time. Learning to do that is one of the most important new skills for your success in building your new life. Otherwise, you'll turn it into the same nose-to-the-grindstone effort you had to muster for your loved one's challenges.

Comfort and blessings.
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Riverdale Oct 3, 2018
What a wonderful message. It was immensely inspiring.
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I’ve been grappling with this myself, but on a different level since my mom has not passed away. I am still caring for her after six years, but wondering what I’ll do when she’s gone. I am sure it will feel like there’s a hole in my heart that you could drive a truck through. I am a designer, and I’ve tried to keep my hand in, but as her Alzheimer’s progresses I have less time. I haven’t been working for money, but advancing my own design ideas for a new business.
I imagine it is similar to people in the service, or first responders. Caregiving is so immediate & demanding round the clock. Going back to a typical job, “please have that memo on her desk by noon” will feel so trivial.
But there is a pleasant stream of life out there. You’ve been running the rapids for so long, it wears you out. Just get in your canoe and float for awhile. Only start paddling again when you feel like it.
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Dexieboy Oct 6, 2018
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Lil1234,
I'm so sorry for your loss. I suggest three ways to address your pain and find new purpose.
1. Join a grief support group or work with a grief counselor.
2. If you have been isolated due to caregiving duties, visit and engage at some social activity. You can find some at senior centers.
3. Check out the websites listed below. They developed programs specifically for 55+ people find enjoyable, purposeful work.

I returned to work at 59 after caregiving. Hope this helps. God bless.

Back to Work 50+
aarp.org/aarp-foundation/our-work/income/back-to-work-50-plus/about-us/
BACK TO WORK 50+ supports community colleges and workforce investment boards that are helping 50+ workers overcome barriers to finding better jobs.

Senior Service of America
seniorserviceamerica.org/
Senior Service of America oversees four federally funded programs to train and employ older adults. The Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP) is one such program. SCSEP is the only federal program targeted to help older workers find work in community service. Each year, SCSEP enables thousands of low-income seniors each year to earn and learn while working in local programs serving their community. Check out their website for the other programs for seniors.


National Older Workers Career Center
nowcc.org/applicant-resources/
Offers some of the same information as Senior Service of America about federal jobs. This particular webpage has some excellent articles about looking for that job.

Check with local community colleges’ counseling center. They may have programs in place for the mature worker and can guide you to the next job you’ll love.
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Oh Lil, so are you!  It is far too soon for you to be thinking of what to do, but cut yourself some slack and give yourself a bit of time if you can afford to.  When you're ready, don't be down on yourself for your age.  Your gap in employment is understandable.  Commendable in fact.  Dedication, determination.  If you can rattle off a list of prior employment, especially recent with references, show that other good quality:  honesty...along with maturity.  Write a brief, sincere paragraph:  I dedicated myself to caring for my ill mother.  Now I'm open to finding a position and willing to learn and expand my skills.  Even if you get a less than desirable position, you'll start building up that resume, and while you are, you can keep your eyes open for something better.  Wishing you all the best.
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Lil, I am so sorry for your loss. My Mom passed away after being bedridden in my home for nearly 19 months. It was the most difficult thing I have ever done. Things got a bit better when she went on hospice. She has been gone nearly 3 years, yet I still have moments where I miss her terribly. I deal with this by thinking that she is safe now from this World, all the ailments that she had to deal with, and that she is with my Dad and other family in a better place. She told me she wanted me to get on with life, but there are moments where I cry still.
I found that getting back out into the World was a slow process. Doing things actually helped me feel better, bit by bit. Give yourself time to grieve, yet remember that your Mom would have wanted you to go on with life and be happy. You deserve this for all that you have done as a caregiver. You will have your moments, but these are turning into happy memories for me now and replacing memories of those rough last months. What helped me was to go through old photos where my Mom was smiling and happy. I wish you all the best for your future as you were a wonderful help to your Mom and she would surely want you to be happy. Take your time and do what feels right.
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I echo everyone’s thought of love and support for you in this, one of the final stages of the very long journey of loss. And I echo the thoughts of everyone who has said that your mission now is to extend the same gentle care to yourself you gave to your mother all those years. Remaining connected is indeed important, but unless you need it financially, getting a job is not the only way to do this. You might try volunteering in various settings to see what piques your interest. Or think of what you gave up during your care-taking. Church activities? Exercise? Community groups (e.g. gardening groups, book clubs, etc)? Or maybe there is even a support group nearby for those grieving losses. As many have said, you are an incredibly strong person. You will make it to the other side of this, just as you made it through all the challenges of care-giving—one day at a time. I don’t believe the hole in your heart ever goes away, but I do believe that over time, and sometimes with help, you learn to live with it most days. You will remain in my thoughts for strength and comfort as you navigate this new road.
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No ! Thank you for sharing. It is ever one who is sharing with each other is blessed. Even though we do not have the faces to match the words written.....it is the old saying "words are powerful"
Do not worry about starting over...if you can take care of your mom for many years you can do anything. Look into major rental car companies for jobs. I know I found a part time job as a driver. Driving car to other rental places in their car to associated rental places. It is part time but I get to drive a new rental car every day. It takes me to areas within 70 miles and then I drive one back to the hub. It is fun and driving relaxes me but looking at different scenes and knowing their is more out there. You did your labor of love now it is your time. No regrets. Your mom would want you to enjoy yourself. You did a great work with your mom and she knows it too inside her heart. Life is for the living!! Carry on honey.
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My prayers are with you and your family and friends. It isn't easy to lose a loved one because you also lose a part of yourself. You were able to help and be there for your Mother and now it's time to be there for you.

Starting over can be difficult, take a deep breath and do baby steps. Since the holidays are coming, perhaps start with something part time or volunteer until you find something that interests you. You aren't starting over at 58, you are experiencing a new adventure, a deserved opportunity to take care of you.

I wish you well and keep us posted! We are all here for you and care.
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Lil1234. You did one of the hardest jobs out there! The part you said about being glad you took care of your mom was exactly how I felt when my dad passed. I’m also about your age and the thought of starting over is daunting. If you are able to do without an income for a bit, I’d suggest you give yourself some time to just decompress before attempting to job hunt. With the skills you learned, if you wanted to be a pro caregiver, the demand is high. You can put an ad offering private care giving respite or search for ads. You can specify how much and how often you wish to work. It’s a way to earn some money while you regroup and it puts your skills to use and allows you to get some references and letters of rec. for any future employment. It also gets you “ out there” to network with others who may have leads for future jobs such as personal assistant, receptionist, activities coordinator, server, elder companion, errand runner, doctor appointment escort. Bottom line is, when you are ready, you will get “ something” as far as work goes and you are free to use any of it as a stepping stone to your next job. Good luck to you! Do what you need to and if no “real” employer sees your value yet, don’t underestimate what you can do even if you are unsure of what it is at this point. Start with anything that you initiate and be open to where it leads you. Bless you for your dedication and strength.
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Dear LIL,
I’d suggest you gave yourself a moment to just be, feel, REST and breath! Days of just walking around, with no rush, trying to find some sense of peacefulness within yourself. As a caregiver something I miss is to own my time, for example just go to the supermarket not feeling that I’m running against time because I’ve to go back. I know perfectly well that ironically when we lose the reason why we need to go back, the person we love and will always love, we feel empty and lost, but give yourself the opportunity to release your life from pressure, like I said, breath!

And don’t forget that although now it seems impossible, time does make a significant difference when it comes to pain, heart pain that is. Remember that as caregivers we don’t only lose a person we love, but basically our reason for living! Since almost our entire life revolves around them. Give yourself the opportunity to heal from what will probably be the biggest change in your life, then you can go back to the sketching board and figure out what you’d like to do. Age is nothing! A friend of mine recently retired, she is 65, a year later she decided to try to work in a field she always loved: teaching. Started as a teacher assistant and two months into it became a full time teacher, and very happy.

Dont let your age intimidate you! It is your disposition and attitude what matter! That’s why I think you need to let yourself heal a little so that you can get your disposition and attitude back in shape! It will happen, believe me and believe in yourself.

And thanks for calling us angels! I agree that who comes here receives great help, but also develops this wonderful need to help others, so we do become each others angels. This is the great miracle Agingcare facilitates, the miracle of love, understanding, compassion and support.

May God bless you and help you find the hope and light you need to get through this difficult time!
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KYGranny Oct 14, 2018
Rosses003,
Your words to LIL touched my heart & brought to my mind some words of wisdom & advice my mom would give me. Her time in the memory care unit was short (10 months) compared to most with dementia patients. She did not want to be there & it broke my heart to put her there. I had to work to provide supplemental income & our only source of insurance. I visited Mom for 4-5 hours every Monday - Thursday after work but the guilt never diminished. I was with her as she quietly & peacefully passed, holding her hand, kissing her forehead while telling her "I love you Mom, save me a seat in Heaven & I'll see you later."
About a month before that she would have brief times of coherence when I was able to speak with her like before dementia took over. Mom was always practical & put everyone's needs & desires above her own. That was my sweet, loving mom. It was during those brief times she would always say six little words that helped me make those tough & heart-wrenching decisions, "Just do what you have to do." Those words of wisdom are in my heart & mind to pull out whenever I need them. It's a piece of Mom that I will carry with me the rest of my life!
I know in my heart of hearts that I did the best I could to see that her wishes & desires were carried out. The last words she spoke to me with a loving smile on her face (eleven days before she passed) were, "I wovey you."
My mom was my best friend in the whole world & I miss her more than I can put into words. I will cherish the many good memories we made before & after dementia. <3
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