When I hear the phrase ‘letting go’, it makes me think of roller coaster rides. You know, it’s the part where, in spite of the instinctive need to hold on to the safety grab bar, you just *let go* and ride with hands high in the air. I believe there’s some learning in that moment of surrendering, that moment where we’re no longer in control and I believe that letting go offers new opportunities.
As I work with caregivers who are transitioning their parents, spouses, grandparents, family friends, aunts, or uncles to live with us, the part about letting go is one of the most difficult- and unanticipated-parts of the transition. Some people are of the Sandwich Generation age group- caring for aging parents, while caring for their own offspring. Others are in the position of ‘for better or for worse- in sickness and in health’ as they uphold marriage vows made at a time and age when everyone was healthy. Others still are family friends who have found themselves in the role of decision maker, or Power of Attorney when the senior has no family available.
Regardless of what brought one to this point, letting go of the caregiver role can stir up emotions. Am I letting my parents down because I can’t do it anymore? Self-doubt. Am I selfish for allowing others to care for my husband, so that I can have a moment to myself? Guilt. She was always so independent, am I taking that away from her? Blame. Maybe I should have tried harder to make it work at home. Remorse.
When the decision is made to move into an Assisted Living community, the second and less obvious decision is made at the same time. It’s the decision to let go. This isn’t an easy transition for everyone, but I will tell you that when one does embrace it- the journey changes. The adult child who is no longer responsible for managing things like their parent’s medications experiences the change. Their phone calls evolve from ‘Did you take your 2 o’clock pills today, Mom?” to ‘How about I swing by with the kids for a dinner visit?’ The relationships gain momentum as the interactions move away from being caregiving-focused and task-oriented to rediscovering the nuggets of connection that create meaningful memories.
In my role at The Kensington, I’m here to support caregivers in learning to let go. It’s an honor to witness them adjusting to their new role while we love and care for their loved ones. When one is open to the possibilities of joy and relief replacing a need to control along with remorse and guilt, the ride takes on a new direction.
-Susie Sarkisian, Director of Family Services