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(This article originally appeared in MOAA's Council and Chapter News update, which is delivered monthly in The MOAA Newsletter. Read the latest Council and Chapter News here.) 

By Barbara Smith, Surviving Spouse Advisory Committee member

When you learn your loved one is debilitated/terminal, your life has changed forever. It can affect you physically, emotionally, socially, and financially. Life as you knew it will never be the same.

The seven stages of a terminal illness are shock, denial, anger, bargaining, depression, testing, and finally acceptance, but they don't proceed in a linear fashion. Buckle up. It will be a bumpy ride.

A caretaker’s job is challenging. The days are long, and the nights can be longer. Your life is filled with endless doctor appointments, tests, and emergency room visits. You still have bills to pay, food to prepare, sheets to change, medicines to give.

It's important to still give your loved one hope, and you must take care of yourself. Don't draw away from family and friends. Accept help. It is very important you find time for yourself to recharge your batteries, as you are no use to your loved one if you become unable to provide the care required.   

The Elizabeth Dole Foundation’s Hidden Heroes initiative, which has partnered with MOAA to create the Caregiver Guideoffers many community resources for military caregivers. Use home health care services, senior citizens centers, your church, your clubs, and friends. Hospitals also are good at helping you find resources for nurses, palliative care, and hospice depending on your insurance.

At the end of your journey, you will be so happy you had the time and could care for your loved one.

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