Last week I wrote about asking the right questions when making decisions as you walk the end of life journey with your parents. Today, I am looking at the fatigue that come from loss and what it means to those experiencing it. For the last six months of my mother's life I was tired. Bone tired. I asked others for help where it made sense, I tried to eat healthy meals and exercise and I worked to get plenty of sleep but I was still tired. What I now understand is the fatigue I was experiencing was not just physical it was mental too. In retrospect I was probably depressed but that didn't occur to me at the time. Fatigue and the desire to cocoon was a part of my daily life.
When you are in the process of watching your parents or someone you love exit this life, the fatigue you may be feeling is as much mental as it is physical. Yes, you can take action to lesson the effects of fatigue on your body such as diet and exercise but sometimes that isn't enough. In my case it was a tough six months but I did get through it. My friend if you are walking this journey now, sit quietly and take stock of how you are feeling. If you are weary and fatigued and there is no end in sight then consider reaching out to your health care professional for support. Yes, you can just push through but if there is help to lessen the strain, why not take advantage of the support? But also know the fatigue you are feeling is situational and will dissipate when your situation changes.
If you are living with a spouse or watching a friend walk this journey, I encourage you to be patient but vigilant. Your loved one may complain of being tired all the time or become indifferent to activities they once loved. He or she may only want to be at home or curled up on the sofa watching mindless TV. This is normal but if months of care for a failing parent turns into years of care, then you might want to gently suggest your loved one check in with his or her doctor. I am not a professional in this area but I do know long-term stress and fatigue takes its toll on the body. The reality is 80% of elderly people receiving assistance are in private homes so you and your spouse aren't the only ones navigating this territory.
We may feel it is our responsibility to care for our parents as they age but it was also a privilege. As you walk this journey, remember you are a family whether by birth or by choice, and you must take care of yourself too, as you are taking care of your parents.