For those of you who are trained for the role of caregiver, you already have a leg up. For those who, like me, became a caregiver unexpectedly, strap in for the ride. As a caregiver you must have compassion, but you can’t get rattled when accidents or unexpected things happen. Caregiving is a true test of heart and a true test of physical and mental will. It is tough and often not rewarded. And yet it’s one of the most rewarding roles. What meant everything to me is when my mom smiled and said hey babe to me, and it made the trials and tribulations worth it. I listed below a few things that I had learned from being a caregiver for my mom who suffered from Alzheimer’s.
I’ve learned that today’s healthcare system is not prepared for the older generation. Dementia / Alzheimer’s is becoming an epidemic. There is no cure and there isn’t much training for healthcare staff. There isn’t much help for the family caregiver. I did my research. I joined support groups from folks who are going thru this caregiving journey as I was.
I've learned that making mistakes isn't the end of the world, nor does it make you a bad person. I’m not a healthcare provider. I’m sure I may have not lifted her correctly, or picked up on cues from her that I may have missed, but I believe that I did a good job.
I've learned about self-care. I found at times that I suffered from Caregiver burnout. I found the meditation, hanging out with friends, and basically doing other things for myself wasn’t selfish but necessary. I decided to create this blog as I found it to be therapeutic for me to write things down, hopefully to help others by letting them know that they’re not alone.
I've learned unconditional love. My mom took care of me when I was a child feeding, bathing me, changing me, helping me learn to walk. How could I turn my back on her? It was my turn to take care of her.
I've learned to be stronger, to cut through to what is important and to let many things go. I've learned how to be better organized and more focused. I've also learned who my friends are, and I can recognize a fellow caregiver a mile away. I have learned empathy. I would never have asked for this life, but I am a better person for it.
I have learned that to survive being a caregiver, you must find the positive in the negative no matter how small it may be. There will be many times where you’ll want to quit, go in the fetal position and just cry, ask why is this happening. It’s ok to feel these feelings. I usually walk away from the situation take a breather and go back in there because your loved one deserves it.
There’s not a handbook for caregiving; you learn as you go. My mom was the most loving and smart, sassy, classy, beautiful person I know, and it was a privilege and an honor to be there to care for her, like she has cared for me.