The term “new normal” is so common it’s become part of everyday conversation. You may have waited for a new normal to develop after you became a caregiver. But even with a daily routine, you may not feel like you have a new normal, and wonder why. What are the problems?

Routines can yield different results

After we moved into our wheelchair-friendly townhome my husband settled into a routine quickly. With intensive therapy my husband’s paralyzed legs started to improve. He learned to stand, to pivot on one foot, and to take steps with the aid of a walker. Therapists asked him to practice walking every day and he can walk the width of our home twice. Today he didn’t walk because he felt so weak. While a routine provides structure to caregiving, it may not be the same every day.

Adjusting to a new place takes time

We lived in our former home for more than 20 years and were used to three levels, a beautiful yard with wildlife, a garage with drop-down stairs and attic storage. As beautiful as our townhome is, we don’t have enough storage space, and always seem to be looking for things. I used to have a home office with a wall of book shelves and a large work counter. Now my “office” is a desk in a notch cut from the laundry room. Some days my husband and I feel like we’ve lived here for years. Other days we feel like we just moved in.  

Adjusting to disability is a daunting challenge

When it comes to being a good sport, my husband is a champion. He has adjusted to so much—three emergency operations, a spinal stroke that paralyzed his legs, the need for a colostomy, having the colostomy, and caring for it. This care involves new medical terms, equipment, and procedures. Neither of us feel colostomy care is our new normal; everything about the process is abnormal.

Chronic disease takes a toll

If your loved one has cancer, heart disease, diabetes, or another chronic disease, you know it takes a toll over time. With medication and specialized care, chronic disease may stabilize for months or years. However, the word chronic implies that the disease will worsen. Since you can’t predict your loved one’s decline, or how long she or he will live, you can’t settle into a new normal.

Life may be drawing to a close

Several times, in the last two years, I thought my husband would die, and had acute anticipatory grief. I recognized the feeling because I experienced it before, and written extensively about it. Unless you take steps to combat anticipatory grief, it will take over your life. Life is up in the air and you wonder if anything will be normal again.

Family caregiving is a challenging enough, without looking for a new normal. We may never achieve this goal and that’s okay. Caring for a loved one, and savoring each moment, is what’s important. Love is our normal and gives us strength and courage for the journey.

 

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