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My Caregiving Story: A Granddaughter’s Experience

February 13, 2015 marked the one year anniversary of my grandfather passing away. I am 32 years old, and I cared for him for approximately three years along with other family and VNA services. My husband and I bought his house and moved in with him and his dog for what we thought would be a stress free situation. My husband and I had only been married for one year, and also started a family during this time. My grandfather was an easy going, appreciative 92 year old man who was legally blind and had limited mobility. I am an RN and in a master’s degree program, but none of my education or life experiences up until that point could have prepared me for the caregiver stress that I felt.

The caregiver stress I felt was not directly related to my grandfather. I loved him dearly and miss him every day. I wouldn’t trade the years I lived with him for anything in the world. In those three years I became very close to my grandfather and learned a great deal about him. One thing about me is that I value family more than anything, I believe it is those experiences that we learn from our parents and grandparents that enriches our lives and shape us into the individuals we become. However, through my experience I have learned that family can also be very complicated.

My stress was the result of family members and VNA services that were involved. Shortly after moving into the home my grandfather’s health took a turn for the worse, and the amount of care he needed drastically increased. There were very few days a week that there was not a family member or VNA staff in my home. This was the root of my stress. The house never felt like mine, there was a total disregard for my privacy and my well-being. In addition there was a total lack of appreciation from half of the immediate family members involved. I was often criticized and had to defend how and why I cared for my grandfather.  At one point an aunt told me, “What did you think it would be like to live with an old person?” in response to me asking to respect my privacy and suggesting we develop a schedule so that I knew who was coming when. I found this to be completely appalling, and it immediately began to drive a wedge between other family members and myself. An example of privacy invasion, is when one of the companions through the VNA services walked into my closed bedroom while I was pumping shortly after I had my first child. During the three years that this took place coming home after work began to cause me an increasing amount of anxiety and agitation. There were days that I would come home from work and not want to get out of my car because of who was in my home.

What I would like others to learn from this story is always be prepared for the unexpected, and before jumping into a caretaking situation be prepared for obstacles you didn’t expect. Be mindful of your own well-being and happiness because it is just as important as those that you care for. I believe that being a grandchild versus an immediate child put me in a very unusual and difficult situation as well. The amazing support from my husband, is how I made it through the situation without seeking additional support/services. This situation continues to influence my life in many ways.

Readers may find these two FCA Fact Sheets helpful: Taking Care of YOU: Self-Care for Family Caregivers and Caregiving With Your Siblings.