Caregiver Wisdom

Walks the Walk and Talks the Talk

I was a caregiver for my late husband who had early-onset Alzheimer’s, my mother who had dementia, my father who had cancer, and my mother-in-law who had dementia. Years after my husband died, I met a lovely widower and enjoyed 3 wonderful years with him until I noticed signs of dementia. At first, I ignored them because I didn’t want it to be true, but it was. I knew I could not go down that road again, and my blood pressure was rising as I dealt with a familiar situation I thought I had left behind.

Our New Normal

Our journey began when Justin was a senior in high school, almost 20 years ago. He had me laughing at his jokes almost immediately. We were young and in love, as we jumped feet first into the world of the USMC. 2 Tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Hurricane Katrina evacuation, the evacuation of American citizens in Lebanon. We decided to re-enlist, thinking it was the best thing to do for our growing family. Thats actually where my caregiving story begins.

When PTSD Moved In

Like any good story I should start at the beginning.

I grew up the youngest of six children. When I was 19 years old and knew everything (because every 19 year old knows absolutely everything) I left home and met my husband. It was a short courtship as he was in the Forces and living in Germany. I moved to Germany, we got married and came back to Canada with a baby on the way.

Honor of My Life

My story began in August 2011 when my wife suddenly started accusing me of having another family. I knew this was not Parkinson’s any more. For the next five years there were ER visits, police involvement, and SNF stays for a total of over 1,000 days.

Finally on December 18, 2016, my wife Maria was put in hospice and left this world January 8, 2017.

Illusions of No Choice

Help others whenever you can. But don’t help others with homework because they might score better than you. Don’t go to the bathroom until you finish your current task. Three of the good, bad, and downright weird lessons my parents taught me as a kid.

I’m now thirty-two, and my parents have once again, taught me another lesson; two of them, actually. Both, are about the idea of choice. Or rather, the illusion of having no choice.

What a Blessing

When I was 18, my dad (then 54) suffered a massive stroke. The stroke affected the left side of his brain, which controls the right side motor functions, as well as speech. He went from working construction to being in a wheelchair with no speech or comprehension. He was diagnosed with aphasia (the inability to comprehend words) and apraxia (the inability to complete motor tasks) in his case this meant to move his mouth to form words, letters, and sounds.

The Plight of a Caregiver

As a caregiver for over five years of my 89-year-old mother, I’m inclined to tell my story in a different way, and offer tangible solutions to the plight of a caregiver.

Caring for and Loving My Son in Spite Of

My son is an adult with epilepsy (grand mal seizures) that started in his childhood and progresses as he gets older. I am very proud of him because he went to college and worked most of his life and is working today. As his caregiver, a few people are very cruel and disrespectful to me and my son. Last month, we moved away from a public housing community in Annapolis, Maryland, where the landlord and owners were allowing illegal drug addicts to threaten, harass, and harm us. A person with severe disabilities needs a safe and non-hostile environment.

Caregiver By Chance, Caregiver By Choice

At nine years old, I lost my dad. So young, however so wise to know I needed to help my mom with my brothers and sister. You see, my mom was not well so I was the “fill-in mom.”

At the age of sixteen, my mom died leaving six children. As we got older, I found myself caring for four siblings as they were diagnosed with Huntington’s disease. There were no support groups within miles; there was no one who really understood my frustrations let alone the disease.

Traveling this noble, sweet, heart-wrenching passage

My husband, Gary, survived ten years with late-stage prostate cancer. Ten good years. He wasn’t supposed to live that long. There were no “For Dummies” books on how to do this, so I made my share of mistakes as caregiver. But I also learned some great life lessons — lessons about slowing down with the patient; about removing my Super Hero cape and accepting help; about the importance of self-care. I discovered that people want to be part of our stories, which means we should let them love on us as we travel this noble, sweet, heart-wrenching, care-giving passage. 

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