Today I want to share a little about my care giving over the past few years. This post is in conjunction with Family Caregivers and AARP, I could not be more thrilled! I hope you find this not only beneficial but insightful! If you are a care giver, know you are NOT alone!
This post is made possible with support from AARP’s Disrupt Aging. All opinions are my own.
When I was 16, I moved out of my Mom’s home and rented an apartment. We both needed time to recover from years of abuse. It was hard, I worked a full time job while putting myself through high school. When I graduated I moved around until I officially had a 2 bedroom apartment on my own. Sure I dated but taking care of my younger brother was my priority. At one point I turned down my engagement to my long time relationship because they were deploying and I wasn’t ready to leave my brother. You could argue that I have been in the “Care giving” role most of my life and you would be right!
Luckily as I got older, my Mother and I, mended our fences. I truly can say I would be a complete wreck if I ever loose her!
Can I just take a moment and say though that Care giving is HARD! They defined “caregiving as providing support with basic functional (e.g., help with eating, bathing), household (e.g., meal preparation, help with shopping), medical/nursing tasks, and arranging and coordinating care.
I remember the first time I was put in the Care giving role with my Mom. She just had a hip replacement which grew a nasty infection following. It was so bad she was emitted to a hospital 2 1/2 hours away. They would not allow me to spend the night and watch over her (in a college town there was no hotels rooms to be had). So, I drove to be with her everyday for 10 days (200 miles round trip). I watched her slip further and further away from me. That day I realized parents aren’t the superheros you have made them out to be. She was a fragile human just like the rest of us.
When she finally came home we were her around the clock care. Bathing, feeding, cleaning and emptying her incisions. No one ever prepares you for this. What can I say it’s gross, it’s embarrassing, it’s humbling but it’s necessary. Sure I could have shipped her to a facility but she’s my Mom. I wanted to care for her. The same women who changed, fed and bathed me as a child needed me.
Can I give you some advice? TAKE BREAKS! If you are in the situation of caring for another make sure you are also taking care of yourself. This was such a hard lesson. I would joke how one of the major aspects of my life was a mess in order to fill the others. My house was clean, my Mom and family was taken care of, but I was a MESS!
Finally my spouse gave me the best advice I could honestly pass along. If you are not making sure you take care of yourself you are no good to anyone! Think of yourself as a cup full of water. Each time you give a little water leaves your cup. You need to keep replenishing your cup daily or you will be empty.
Did you know that Caregiving is one area that touches every generation. Surprisingly, 24% of the 40 million family caregivers in the United States are Millennials (those born between the years 1980 and 1996). The proportion of this group holding full time jobs is higher than any other generation, yet they are the least likely to identify as caregivers or talk about their unpaid family responsibilities in the workplace, minimizing the opportunities for support.
So, if you are a care giver…you are NOT alone! Can I promise you will not get frustrated and the person you are caring for won’t get on your nerves? No, I fight weekly with my mother over silly things like taking her to Physical Therapy. Not because we are bad people but this is a HUGE adjustment for both of us. She depends on ME! She is used to coming and going as she pleases and now can’t drive. Plus, I am the one in charge, most parents have a hard time taking orders especially from their kids.
It’s hard, but we get through it one appointment at a time.
Since it is Family Caregiver’s Month this November, we are reflecting on our personal care giving journeys! I hope sharing a little about my journey helps. I also want to share some amazing resources that WILL help you along your way!