I know more centenarians than anyone. As a group they share some basic commonalities, but individually they have interesting idiosyncrasies. Anyone who has reached the age of 100 has secrets which they will reveal if you are listening.
Kay was on the phone. We were talking in the overlapping intersection between business and personal. She asked about my mother. She always does. She asked about me. She always does, and always after she’s got my mother’s status down. Kay is not a caregiver now but she knows a lot of them professionally.
I reached Don as he was leaving the hospital. “No,” he said, in response to my question of: did she make it. I didn’t need a question mark after the statement. There was no question about surviving a cardiac resuscitation on the dementia unit of a nursing home.
Martha was a serial caregiver. She took care of her parents on a sliding scale, first her father while her mother was still in charge, and then barely taking a breath, she took care of her mother who really didn't need much at first.
Without knowing it at the time Mark became his mother's caregiver when his grandmother died and his mother’s job as caregiver therefore ended. He moved up closer, one potential rung, by family example. Back then it was just a reminder, nothing to the job description yet, after all he had an older sister and Mark's mother took care of herself.
It's not like the experience of caregiving goes away when it ends, and it always ends. No matter that the position has been closed with its exact and delineated daily, weekly, monthly, or “as needed” caregiving tasks, the impact endures. Some post-caregivers grieve exclusively; others are primarily relieved. More often than not grief and relief fit tightly in the same moment.