I apologise for not posting for two weeks. My computer went on strike!
The day you realised you could no longer be a full-time care partner, you set out on a journey. You researched and toured and talked to others, looking for the best place for your loved one. You looked at finances and wrote "what ifs" on pieces of paper and counted the cost. You agonised and made the best decision possible.
Moving day came, and you didn't sleep the night before. You worried how it would go. Would they resist? Would the staff be kind? Would they have patience with incessant questions and unpredictable moods?
Now, several weeks have passed. Your loved one is settled in, and although life isn't perfect, there are positives. Mom seems to like her full-time care partner and is going to the dining room for meals. She's attended some activities, and even brought the fancy napkin home from a tea party and posted it on her bulletin board. When you walk in the room, she seems happy. When you walk out, she goes on to other things.
How are you doing?
It's a question I often ask family members. Many times, there is the answer they give (I'm fine. I'm so glad the transition is over. She seems happy.) and the real answer (I worry about her all the time. I wake in the night wondering if she's okay. The staff is great, but...)
It's hard to let go, isn't it?
What does letting go mean, anyway? Here is what it's not:
1) It doesn't mean you aren't a care partner any more. You have more support in the care of your loved one, but you make the decisions and control the outcomes. You are the most important member of the care team.
2) It doesn't mean you aren't needed. Instead of focusing all your energies on care needs, you can now spend time on fun things with your loved one. Is there an ice cream cone or a walk outside in your future?
3) It doesn't mean you shouldn't visit. Sometimes, depending on the person, it's wise to stay away or not visit too often in the first few weeks during transition. This isn't the case with everyone, but for some people it makes the transition easier. But after those first few weeks, your visits are important and needed.
4) It doesn't mean you love them any less, or you are less loving and caring as a care partner.
So what does it mean to let go?
It means you get to know the care team, find out who they are as people, and begin to trust them. Until you can trust that your loved on is getting good care, you will never sleep well at night.
It means you give the care team as much information as possible about your loved one: their background, things they like to eat and the little ways they like things done. You make sure they have all the information they need to do a good job. Then you back off. If something important to your loved one's care and well being isn't being done, you address it, but you don't sweat the small stuff. You look into your heart and ask, "Is this bothering Mom, or is it just bothering me?"
It means you set boundaries and don't feel guilty. This is a tough one. Boundaries are one thing ("I will visit three times this week and not every day. I will go away this weekend. I will consider a vacation.") but the "not feeling guilty" part takes practise. As you learn to trust the staff, and you can gradually open your hand and loosen the tight grasp that was necessary when you were on your own.
Letting go is freeing. You will always love and care, and, let's face it, you will probably always worry. But letting go lets you enjoy your loved one in new ways. It gives you the freedom to be with them without focusing on the minutia of their care.
Today, if you are in this position, open your hand--just a little.