Saying Goodbye to a Beloved Caregiver

When I took a new job opportunity last October to migrate from Houston, Texas to Perth, Australia, I knew the journey would be no picnic for Mum. I knew the general disruption would be troublesome for her to manage, essentially in light of the fact that dementia has denied her the capacity to adjust to changes in her everyday life. Also, gosh, how life has changed.

As I write this, it is a week before the removalists will come and load up all of our possessions. Boxes are stacked three containers high and all of our carefully packed possessions are waiting in the lounge room along with piles of junk sprawling on the floor, some of which are rubbish and some of which will go to Goodwill. I’ve tried to leave plenty of floor space for Mom to walk through, yet when all is said and done the entire place has gone up against a demeanour of “hoarder chic.” This level of turmoil and confusion has taken a psychological toll on the two of us.

Only two days back, Mum remained in the kitchen, motioning with a cinnamon bun while crying, “Where is the bread knife now?” Mum was distraught over something as simple as a bread knife being misplaced, yet this is what moving can do to individuals. We as a whole are anchored in life by physical qualities and regular events. As these have vanished amidst the move, our lives have progressed toward becoming less anchored.

For the last few years, a regular and keenly anticipated part of Mum’s routine was our lovely Caregiver Emma’s twice-weekly visit. Each Tuesday and Friday, Emma would come to our house to help with her personal care needs by giving Mum a shower, washing her clothes, making her lunch, performing some barista magic by making her a special espresso and sit with her and listen to her stories.

But things are now changing. Mum is moving to another country. One of the hardest things to do is saying goodbye to Emma. The very thought of leaving her friend fills Mum with distress. Each Monday and Wednesday, before Emma is due to visit the following day, Mum sadly questions, “How often will she come now?” As of today, we’re down to two more visits.

I’ve watched Emma getting ready for the farewell to Mum too. Despite everything, she still embraces Mum (which Mum loves) but, she’s not as spontaneous or relaxed as she used to be. She is tenser.  As a medical attendant, I can envision how difficult it is for a Caregiver to say goodbye to a treasured client.  I really think that Emma likes Mum too. She always showed so much interest in the conversation and her opinions. They both got on so well together.

But things are different now at the end of their relationship. Mum has started pulled back from Emma. She refused a shower during the last visit. She doesn’t take initiate conversations as much and she definitely does not show any physical affection.

It’s agonising to watch this move of separation between two people who like each other and have had such a good relationship. Just like a breakup, it is very difficult for both people to acknowledge that the relationship is ending and that they will have to say goodbye forever.

I recommended to Mum that we purchase a nice card ” to say thanks” to Emma. It’s a small thing, but I hope it will provide some closure when they finally say goodbye.

As I watch Mom trying to keep it together as she separates from Emma, I am trying to keep up my positive thinking that great things are yet to come. I can only hope that we can find a similarly superb Caregiver service in Australia.

Miriam P.

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