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The Gail Sheehy Interview  (Page 4 of 5)

An Interview with Gail Sheehy

GB: But I will certainly be happy to partner with Him or Her.

GS: Yes, but I will be partner; exactly. And you know, ask for help every day. Say, “You know, dear God, there is nothing that can be thrown our way today that we cannot deal with together.” As caregiver, it is not all on you.

The next Turning is “I can’t do this anymore.” Just saying those words is a signal that you have to call for help. You have to drop out once a day for at least an hour. You may only go out for twenty minutes the first time and just walk around the block. But when you realize that your loved one did not die in those twenty minutes, maybe you can do forty minutes the next day. You work up to an hour, and that hour has to be nothing to do with caregiving; it’s no fair calling the doctor about a prescription.

Then there is the Circle of Care; you will need to create a circle of people who will assume some responsibility for aspects of care. Let members of your family and friends who have not been involved know that you have reached the end of your rope. The Seventh Turning is called Coming Back. I think this may be the most important Turning of all. You know that your loved one might get well and stay well; but if you are still on this journey, you get to a point where you have to acknowledge that your loved one is not going to get well and is going to become more dependent. That is the point where you, as hard as it may sound, need to begin the letting go process. People who are able to begin that thought process begin preparing their own way back; you are on a different path than your loved one who is not going to come back. You need to replenish your lifelines and recall your transports to joy. These might be friends or music or your work or being in nature, but you really have to recall and re-experience them so you do not forget what they were.

GB: Exactly. Often the act of caregiving can create a new you. A gentleman at one of our Fearless Caregiver Conferences talked about the time that he realized there was nothing more he could do for his wife living with Alzheimer’s disease but hold her hand, so he decided to go back to school and learn to paint. Now he sells his artwork.

GS: That is ideal. Find your passion, or recall the passion that you forgot you used to have when you were 12 or 13, and pursue it with full heart and mind. This is a time that if you actually do that, you have a pathway to come back; not to an illusion that you are going to have your old life back, but to a new life.

Then finally, we get to the eighth Turning—The Long Goodbye. When you have a long goodbye, you have time for end-of-life conversations. They are really important for both the caregiver and the loved one because you want to feel good about how your loved one is approaching a passage that neither one of you can map out. Being able to bring in whatever spiritual support or religious support is appropriate; if there isn’t any, become creative in bringing in people to talk.


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