“Caregiving is an adventure in love and patience. The best days are when she is feeling good and engaged in living and enjoying the things she can still do. The toughest days are when she is in pain and I’m helpless to help. It’s tough when she is cranky about her limitations.
I just try to understand the frustration of life changing so dramatically from climbing mountains to having difficulty standing and walking. And I breathe and know that tomorrow will be different and trust it will be better.”
Carol is a caregiver to her 90 year old mother, Dottie. Dottie’s husband of 62 years just passed away last year. Carol, the oldest of 4 children, has taken the lead in caring for her mother although the other siblings also contribute to her care. Since they all live in different states, every month one of the kids fly in for a week to visit with Dottie and give Carol a break. It not only takes a village to raise children, but also to care for aging parents.
Carol has worked hard to find places and activities where Dottie can stay active and engaged. Dottie is in a bridge group that she says challenges her mentally. She is in a book club and exercises regularly with the help of a physical therapist. Walks with her children provide exercise, connection and enjoyment.
Carol has also done a great job of taking care of herself. Caregivers usually have a harder time asking for help because they are used to giving. Everyone needs to get recharged and taking a break and nurturing yourself is essential to being able to keep giving.
“One morning when I was visiting him, I came into kitchen to feed the cats only to find that he had already filled their bowls with food. My concern was that each of these 4 bowls had a full place setting complete with cutlery, napkin and placemat.”
This was Mary’s first “uh oh” moment with her father having early signs of Alzheimer’s disease. Sometimes there can be laughter intertwined with the sobering reality of life’s challenges. Appreciating the complexity of life and being present with the joy and sadness makes life full. Caregivers get to experience this complexity daily and sometimes even moment by moment.
“I manage his finances and help him with some life decisions, like the roll in shower that he is now putting in his bathroom through Accessible Systems. I’m the first one that gets called if he falls or if there is an emergency. He has been a life-long friend and he doesn’t have any other family. I don’t get paid for this. I was pre-paid with years of friendship.”
Michael is one of the caregivers for Elden. Elden also has in-home care to help with housecleaning, bathing and meals. Michael doesn’t mind being the first contact for his friend even with the early morning or late night calls. He helps out how he can but doesn’t try to do it all. There is a support team of paid and volunteers to help with the care.
Accessible Systems acknowledges all the different types of caregivers that are out there helping others. August is Caregivers Month and although this topic deserves volumes, we have tried in this short article to recognize how difficult this job is and at the same time how rewarding it is. Thank you to all the caregivers who work so hard and give so much.
Never believe that a few caring people can’t change the world. For, indeed, that’s all who ever have.
—Margaret Mead, Anthropologist