Caregiver Confessions: When You Feel You've Lost Your Purpose After Caregiving Ends

Firsthand advice from a caregiver who's been there

Alongside the hole left by losing a loved one, a caregiver may be surprised to feel a different kind of loss: a foundering sense of purpose. It makes sense -- caregiving can be so consuming and can require such hard-won expertise that it can be difficult to regain a footing in "normal life" afterward.

"Your loved one needed you, and now that she's gone, it can be hard to replace that," says TV-radio personality Leeza Gibbons, who founded Leeza's Place communities for caregivers after her mother died of Alzheimer's disease. "It's like losing a job."

Watch Leeza's advice for regaining purpose after caregiving.

Video 13 of 13

More tips on making this transition:

Embrace, don't discount, what you've been through. Recognize that there's real value to the practical skills and psychological insights you gained as a caregiver. Added to the invaluable service you provided to your loved one, you can see that this was not "wasted" effort.

Share your wisdom with others. offers many ways that members can comment on articles, offer their advice and experience, and speak directly to other caregivers. It's common to want to "give back" to help others overcome some of the challenges you faced -- and that's invaluable!

Force yourself to reconnect. Slowly begin to pick up some of the old threads of your life that may have become frayed during your caregiving journey. Reacquaint yourself with community resources, that exercise class you dropped, your library or book club membership. Consider a part-time job. Get out into the world.

Consider your new skills as professional ones. Many former caregivers go on to become nurses, geriatric care managers, social workers, Area Agency on Aging employees, or elder companions -- or to take on other roles that build on what they learned as caregivers.

See also:

When You're Feeling Guilt

When You Don't Feel Appreciated

When You're Sleeping Poorly

When You're in Over Your Head

When You Lose Your Temper

Family Is Being Torn Apart

When You're Just Not Eating Right

When You Rarely See Friends

When You Resent Being a Caregiver

When No One Will Help

Feeling Anticipatory Grief

After Caregiving Ends

Paula Spencer Scott

Paula Spencer Scott is the author of Surviving Alzheimer's: Practical Tips and Soul-Saving Wisdom for Caregivers and much of the Alzheimer's and caregiving content on Caring. See full bio

over 3 years, said...

Very useful information to understand the ups and downs of care givers. They may be doing a thankless job but it gives immense responsibility to look after the loved ones and also others. In the process of care giving they develop patience and undurance and they can easily live on and survive any situations and circumstances they face in their duties hereafter.

almost 5 years, said...

Just lost my mother after 12 yrs of daily care for her although she did not live with me as she had sundowning and wandered at night. Miss her so much and go to call in the morning as I have everyday for so many years, cut her food, where to take her on our daily outing she can enjoy, what she needs done to make her more comfortable, finding her hearing aides and filling the battery change, finding her dentures, holding her arm as she walks, choosing her meals I know she will like and chew, taking her to church and catching her after communion as she cannot see,her sense of humor on the days she was with it, her indomitable spirit that sustained us both, just her, the unique lady who left a huge hole when she sailed off to heaven without me. Bless you sweet mom.

about 6 years, said...

I was beginning to think that my lovely wife and I wouldn't have another Christmas together , but now it is very possible,,Every day I say to myself ( whilst looking at her ) " hang in there Darling" ..I have started to equate the whole thing as the same as running a marathon where, although the distance is 26 miles, the race doesn't really start until after the 20 miles marker,,,and then the struggle begins,,I am at about that point ...The carers from the Hospice have become the water stations along the route and thereby giving me a bit of respite for the next couple of miles. I asked one of the visiting nurses what the path was that we are now taking and what could I expect ( so I could make a plan or two ),,,,She said very kindly "Whatever your own gut feeling is, that is what will occur,,every patient is different, so we cant give you an accurate time-line",,,I wish all of you Blessed people a Very Merry Christmas and hope things are easier for you in the New Year....Pink Gin

about 6 years, said...

I want to wish all my caretaker friends a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year..may God watch over us in these so tought times. God Bless

about 6 years, said...

The topics that each video addressed where so right on to what I am encountering right now. And since I amj still a caregiver it gives me some insight as to what is comming next and some advise on how to handle it and maintain "my-self" Thank you alll for caring..

over 6 years, said...

Don't beat yourself up. The guilt will eat you up and spit you out. Could''a, should'a,s don't help either. You will always be needed, though the loved one may be gone, others can benifit by your experiences. Continue to reach out and others will reach back... Hugs to you!

over 6 years, said...

It is only two weeks have passed since our last visit to Margaret's Neurologist, In that time, my life has changed for ever..I have been her sole carer now for almost 50 years ( but only a short time with her health problems ),,The Doctor told me she was on a quick downward spiral ( also discovered she now has a skin cancer problem on her face ),,seems now that maybe treatment is out of the question, He wrote an order for Hospice Care and these people are fantastic and seem to care more than I ever could ( Physically )..I immediately beat myself up, thinking I was useless and no longer needed, but the Hospice folks reassured me that I was indeed wanted.When the " End of life " comes, I am sure I will go through many more self-guilt emotions and hope I can still belong to this forum for some kindness and consideration,,,BUT right now, I feel really awful and isolated...Shame on me for being this way ...I should SNAP OUT OF you all....P.G

over 6 years, said...

Petrin 56 Good on you, my feelings entirely, no separation after so much life together! I have taken a mortgage at my age just to have help to keep going, this my family fully endorse so their Dad can be happy and well cared for. We need two people 3 times daily for the transfers from commode etc. but this puts him into routine which works really well and keeps him without agitation. I feel my husband's working life is now rewarded.

over 6 years, said...

My folks have been together for 64 years, and if I have just one breath left in me they will never be apart, in someone elses care where they can't be together. They will need different care and that will seperate them. NOT GOING TO HAPPEN ON MY WATCH. I have already spent most of my life savings to keep us all together and will die keeping them home with me, where they belong.

over 6 years, said...

Mary Goodriend, I totally agree with you, I have been with my husband 60yrs and am never going to give up on caring for him. He deserves this with the love we have for each other, what else would I do with my life to give me such pleasure and satisfaction even though we wouldn't have wished for this Alzheimers ending. Thankyou for being a like minded carer.

over 6 years, said...

Thank you for the ideas on how to move on. When you are in the situtation sometimes what needs to be done or how to go forward is clouded because of the current emotion.

over 6 years, said...

Information in the formate of video and sound is better than written material. I could not see captions with video.

over 6 years, said...

I never realized how burned out I already am. I could relate to all of it. I had a chance to let go for the first time in over 2 years plus. This journey is a tough road. I try to convince myself that the precious moments the I have had along the way will sustain me. I will cherrish them but they can't and don't sustain me enough to go on. I will continue on the journey knowing that Mom and Dad would be proud of what I am doing. Going though this with one parent is difficult at best, but having both parents in different stages has it's own challanges. I will accept any and all prayers and advise. Roger

over 6 years, said...

I am new to the site, so much information that I can relate to, my situation is that when my husband retired we moved to jupiter fl. he was diognosed with Alzheimers, the journey began we are a young couple in our 60's as far as we were concerned life was just starting, This is our 2nd marriage I have two girls and he has four children, I was there for his children most of their lives, and now that there father has Alzheimers, they hardly call to try to support me in any way, I wrote them about this matter I got no response. I love where I live and I feel forced to go back to NY so at least I will to close to my friends and family I sure can use the support, like someone said people just move away from you. but your old friends will stay close, this disease really takes the wind out of your glad I found this site sorry for being so winded. Thank you for listening to me!!!!!!

over 6 years, said...

Giving ideas on what to do next. Most of us going through this has no ideas of what to expect next or what to do next. Reconnecting is an excellent suggestion. I lost seeing mine and my wife's friends while caring for my wife who had dementia and actually I am tired of sitting at home doing nothing and trying to keep of getting depressed. Thanks again for the suggestions