When a Caregiver's Role Ends: What's Next?

The family caregiver role is one of the toughest ones a person can hold, both physically and emotionally. And when it ends, the sense of loss can be quite profound, particularly when he or she has been caring for a loved one for many, many years. Indeed, while the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry has reported that nearly one in three family caregivers has some degree of clinical depression, that number likely increases in the near-term among those whose caregiving work has suddenly ended.

Attorney Bret Hanna eloquently speaks to the emotional fallout resulting from the withdrawal of caregiving for a loved one recently in an article surprisingly published in a legal trade publication. He acknowledges the "overwhelming void" that family caregivers can face when they are no longer required to provide assistance because their loved one has transitioned into a nursing home facility or passed away. It's understandable, of course, given that so much of themselves had been devoted for so long on attending to the myriad needs of their mother or father or spouse or other family member. It's not easy to just slip back to their "pre-caring" existence - as if that's even possible. Being a family caregiver truly changes your perspective on life and priorities.

Hanna writes of the need for those suddenly finding themselves outside the caregiving role that they had identified with for so long to find ways to fill the void when the "need for caregiving goes away." He shows great insight in touching on a very purposeful way to move forward:

Put the Skills You've Developed to Work: Now that you have time on your hands, consider turning the skills you have learned as a caregiver into a job or career. Consider becoming a nurse or institutional social worker who works with disabled people or the elderly. Or consider working with a public or non-profit agency that provides non-medical support for the disabled or the elderly in your community.

Increasingly, those who have found a sense of joy and fulfillment in caring for loved ones have turned to professional caregiving after their need to serve in that role for family has changed. As our population demographics continue to swing toward a growing percentage of those in their senior years, there will be increasingly strong demand for those with the right skills, experience, and temperament for the work. And the financial rewards for caregivers are improving. Although professional caregivers historically have been paid minimum wages, they increasingly can earn $15/hour or more, depending on where they go for assignments.

While college degrees are not typically required for the job, opportunities increase considerably for professional caregivers with specialized training. Community colleges and adult education learning sites often offer courses for those interested in becoming a certified home health aide (CHHA). As well, the Red Cross offers its Nurse Assistant Training (NAT) program for caregivers looking to buttress their practical experience with formal learning. And for those looking for more advanced training, common educational credentials sought include RN (registered nurse, LPN (licensed practical nurse), or CNA (certified nursing assistant).

Some of CareLinx's best caregivers are those that have walked the proverbial mile in the shoes of the family members that hired them. They understand the rollercoaster of emotions they contend with, the stress, the constant worry... and they have the empathy, experience, and patience to help the family navigate through their own journey caring for loved ones.

Kudos to Bret Hanna for shining a light on a wonderful way for former family caregivers to embark on their own next chapter.