Finding the Joy in Caregiving
I know some of you are giving me a side-eye, and you may not think that's true but you can find joy in caregiving. I needed to do this not just for my mom but for my sanity. As a full-time employee, I was already stressed out as it is. I drove five hours to North Carolina to care for her and give her husband a break. I was so focused on the all the necessary tasks like her care, medical appointments that I had to take her to, and the financial issues. In the beginning, I forgot about just enjoying the precious time that I had left with my mom while ensuring providing self-care for myself.
So, I decided to start taking advantage of the "good days" and start doing things that would bring her happiness in the past. I would sit with her and play her favorite music. I just got out my smartphone looked up her favorite Gospel and RnB songs, and played them for her. I knew that she remembered the tunes because she swayed to the music. One of my last outings with my mom was to the mall. Yes, the mall she seemed to have this burst of energy a few months before she passed. We walked arm and arm in the mall, window shopping for a little while. Now, of course, it wasn’ t same as the past, she wouldn't point out a cute outfit and say, "what about this babe? This would look sharp on you.", because her dementia was in the later stages, but it was to get her outside for some fresh air and exercise. My mom also loved her sweets. They say that as you go further in the stages that your taste buds would only like sweets. I got us a ice cream cup to share. When I cooked, I would put a little bit sugar so she would want to eat it.
My mom loved celebrating birthdays and holidays. She would do something for everyone in the family. Going out shopping buying presents in advance so she would have something to pull out the closet and put in a cute bag was her thing. She would have parties with good southern food and cakes, and it was delicious. She would sing Happy Birthday to me every year on the phone and in person until the dementia took her memory away. She would get her brothers and sisters together to have a party for her mom all the way up to her 98th birthday. Even when her mom passed away, she still drove all the way to West Virginia from North Carolina to place flowers on her grave. A ritual that I will do now for her. She would decorate the house for Christmas with a wreath, Christmas tree, and poinsettias lined by the house entryway and the fireplace.
I remember bringing my dog with me when I came down to care for my mom. When she was well I would joke with her and told her that your Granddog Foxy is with me because I didn't have my own children. We would laugh and agree and she would rub Foxy’s ears and belly.
In the end, even though some of your caregiving days are dark, and we all know how Dementia is relentless and unforgiving, and you feel that there is no way out. I’ve experienced that as a former caregiver. In those brief moments, I’ve got my days of light and joy when everything fell into place. Take in the moments, be thankful for them even though they are few and far between. You will cherish them when your loved one is gone. When she said to me Hey Babe, it was worth everything. It was that little phrase that would bring me joy.