Friday, October 29, 2010

Oh, what happened to you, whatever happened to me? What became of the people we used to be?

It's one of the biggest challenges - Staying Me. Most people understand that those with dementia and Alzheimer's lose their memories and with them their sense of identity. But few people consider the role of the carer and the losses that they bear.

The caring role is so demanding and so emotionally draining that there's very little time left for anything else. Our interests, our hobbies, our friends - all are forsaken, are sacrificed in the name of caring for others. As time passes, there is little left of the people we were.

There's a song from the theme of an old television comedy series with a few lines that go:

Oh, what happened to you, whatever happened to me?
What became of the people we used to be?

And almost as if written for carers, it goes on:

Tomorrow's almost over, today went by so fast, the only thing to look forward to is the past

The sad thing is that if we do not take care to ensure that some of that 'past' survives then there will be nothing to sustain us during the 'caring' journey and even more importantly, nothing left of us when it is finished.

In many cases, carers are continually required to think ahead, to plan ahead - to live ahead. Today is just a flash taken up with their duties with no time for themselves. In fact, keeping a part of the past alive is in some ways the only way to keep the people we were alive.

Once someone becomes a full-time carer for a friend or relation, they slowly but surely re-define themselves as 'a carer'. The old person with their interests and their life first learns to take a back-seat to this 'new' person until eventually the old is completely forgotten.

Where does that leave us when the role of carer ends?

And how does that sustain us on that journey?

It is critical to hold onto 'who we were' - or more specifically, 'who we are'.

"Staying Me" is not an option or a luxury - it is a necessity.