Caring for aging parents: Feel like your life is on hold?

I wonder if you have had the feeling of living in suspended animation as if your life has been put “on hold”?

I think long-term caregiving can give us the feeling that we are not where we used to be but we are not where we are going to be either. I remember a character from the Peanuts cartoon (was it Pigpen?) who always had a cloud of dust and dirt above his head. For us, it would be more like a cloud of anxiety and uncertainty that hangs above us.

Read our complete guide to caring for aging parents.

This is your life "right now"

Rather than feeling like our real lives are “on hold,” perhaps we can say that this is our life right now as caregivers. We were not caregivers in the past and there will probably come a time when we will not be caregivers again. I believe that life is going on as it is meant to be.

I find great comfort in that classic peace song, "Turn, turn, turn" by The Byrds:


To everything, turn, turn, turn

There is a season

And a time for every purpose under heaven

A time to be born, a time to die

A time to plant, a time to reap

A time to laugh, a time to cry.


I think it is okay to think about what our lives will be like when our loved one passes on.


Preparing for the future

I  used to feel guilty having thoughts about how much easier my life would be when I didn’t have all these caregiving responsibilities. Now, I feel that such thoughts can help us prepare for the future. In fact, we can even initiate conversations with our loved one about basic details of their passing as well as emotional aspects of our relationship.

One example of basic details is the fact that we need to know whether our loved one wants to be buried or cremated. One colleague had a wonderful conversation with her mom about all the places her mom wanted to have her ashes spread. Her mom enjoyed thinking of all the trips her family members would need to make to distribute her ashes.

We can also bring up the more emotional aspects by saying something to our loved one like: I have been thinking about what life will be like without you and I want you to know that I am really going to miss your _______.


Great conversations

We can have wonderful conversations about what we appreciate in our loved ones. My sister and I did an audiotape in which we told our mom all the things she had taught us and expressed our gratitude for her wisdom. Needless to say, she loved it and played it daily until she passed on.

I hope it helps you to think of this caregiving experience as just part of your life cycle. We are not “on hold.” Our lives are flowing, as they need to flow.


Related articles:

Health and wellness for caregivers

Senior care resources: Getting help at home

Action plan for caregivers

Home care costs

Does it feel like your life is on hold?  Share your experiences with others by posting a comment below.


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