Caregiver Wisdom

Who is a Caregiver at the Age of 20? Advice From a Young Caregiver

I was 19 years old when my Mom was diagnosed with Metastatic Small Cell Lung Cancer, which had a low survival rate. I was in my second semester of college so the idea of caregiving was not exactly making sense to me. Who is a caregiver at the age of 20? That’s for older people! However, little did I know it was for people of all ages. There are caregivers that are 16, 15, 17. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would caregive at 20. I am going to be honest and blunt for anyone that is the same age as me and is caregiving their single parent: It is not easy.

“Hello, I must be going …”

“Hello, I must be going …” read the note addressed to me and taped to the door of Allan Reiff's office in the Philosophy/Humanities Department at our local community college. The year was 1983, and little did I know then, the dark truth hidden in those seemingly light-hearted words; the man I would eventually marry would be taken from me all too soon by the ravages of Alzheimer’s disease.

Transferring Mom was New, But Restlessness and Inactivity Kindled her Agitation

Our family equation for caregiving developed slowly, over five rigorous years following our father's death. Two sisters and I divide the year into three, with each caregiving our 85 year-old mother four months. Mom spends summer on Kauai. 

My first summer with Mom was clumsy. Not clumsy like, "Oops, I tripped over a crack . . ." clumsy like a caffeinated circus performer juggling 14 greased kittens─ridiculous, slightly hazardous, and horrifying to observers.

Now it is My Turn to Be There for Him

My name is Julie Pacheco, I'm 47 years old and I take care of my step father Jack who is 90 years old. He suffers from dementia.

When I was 26 my mother married this man and he became a part of our crazy, dysfunctional family. By dysfunctional  I mean mainly myself, who at that time, was a single mother sufferring from the disease of addiction.

So Tired From All My Parents' Doctor Appointments That I Hate Seing One Myself

I have multiple illnesses and receive only SSI, though I did try to work some freelance after getting disability. I am currently living with, and trying to look after two parents. They are in their late 80s/early 90s and very luckily have only mild dementia. I attribute some of this to the fact that I am there and, being a person who is interested in many things, create a stimulating environment.

We Had Promised Each Other We Would Never Leave One Another

For 3 years, it was forgetting just little things. He never thought anything about it as his job was very stressful. He had a mandatory work meeting down state which he went to. But he called me on the phone saying that he was lost, and that’s when I knew there was something wrong.

I found him on the side of the road; I had told him to park and stay in his car. We went home and he seemed fine for a while.

The Trouble with Hope

I had a strained relationship with hope before my wife was diagnosed with cancer.  To me, hope was a high waiting for a low, a fix with a nasty flipside.  Far from the precious entity exalted by legions of poets and philosophers, hope was just another coordinate on the pain/pleasure cycle existing in infinite balance with its opposite.  In the same way that happiness alternates with sadness, or desire with loss, hope alternates with fear. One requires that the other exist. Hope was for suckers, and I was no sucker.

A once virile, passionate Italian was now void of all emotion

My name is Lisa. I’m a baby boomer and so was my childhood sweetheart. We met at 15, and dated until we were married in 1966, just turning 20 years old. We were born in August, and chose that month to marry as well. A lot of celebrating for two Leos.

Our life began rather simply. Living and working in San Francisco, but wanting to start a family, we decided to buy a home in the burbs.

A Caregiver’s Bill of Rights

I have the right . . .

  • To take care of myself.  This is not an act of selfishness. It will give me the capacity of taking better care of my relative.
  • To seek help from others even though my relative may object. I recognize the limits of my own endurance and strength.
  • To maintain facets of my own life that do not include the person I care for, just as I would if he or she were healthy. I know that I do everything that I reasonably can for this person, and I have the right to do some things for myself.

I Lost My Job But I Cannot Leave Him to Get Another

My husband and I were watching a movie, sitting on couch on a Saturday night. He said he was tired as I got up and went to the kitchen. Then he said "I have a tremendous headache," then held his hand on the left side of his face, saying "my face feels numb, funny" . . . then his head fell back. I tried to talk to him. He was screaming "Oh no!" I called 911.


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