I often hear from family caregivers whose stories enthuse me, motivate me, and help inspire me to do my job. I must admit I love to hear a good story, especially when it has a happy ending. I’ll share a few of these family caregiver stories since I believe we can all learn from others and their life experiences.
We’ve all shared great accomplishments, but not so many of the challenges we face. But I believe the challenges can be as instructive as the accomplishments. No one can dispute the joy one feels when things go as planned, but that’s not always the case. Maintaining dignity and independence as we age is what we aspire to. Based on the conversations I’ve had, it seems that retaining dignity can be among the family caregiver’s most perplexing duties. Read these shared stories with an open mind and see if you can relate.
The son of care
A gentleman called me recently and told me that when he’d reached his eagerly awaited retirement, he actually felt he had less time to enjoy life than when he was working. He was caring for his elderly mother who was suffering from dementia, and he couldn’t believe how much time it took to properly care for her. He was devoted to the idea of taking care of her, but as her dementia worsened, it became a full-time job. Needless to say, he didn’t begrudge the time spent with her. In fact, it was the lack of quality time that bothered him. Managing her care and navigating the health-care system was taking way too much time. He finally called out for help and, through some community programs and home care services, he began spending time doing the things that brought both of them joy. He was able to repay her for all the years she’d cared for him with something of value: the quality of life, dignity and independence she deserved.
The soul mate
A noble women used to call me regularly to tell me how things were going with her husband’s care. She was receiving assistance from a local government-funded program, and her caregiver and coordinator was from Bayshore Home Health, so she felt it was meaningful to tell me about his activities. I loved hearing the success stories and how much she appreciated the little things. I wondered about her because I hadn’t heard from her for a while. But she called me recently to say that her husband had passed away. And while she was missing her soulmate of 65 years, she knew he was in a good place and she was slowly putting her life back together. She was starting to focus on her own well-being after so many years as a family caregiver. She’d found support through her community church and a circle of friends in her neighbourhood that were in very similar situations. She told me that some of her neighbours had lived on the street for 45 years, and that the new kids on the block were very willing to help any of the seniors who needed it. Now that’s a true community.
The driving force
Recently, my mom told me about a friend of hers who had his driver’s licence revoked due to medical reasons. He and his wife lived independently in an adult living condominium where they enjoyed their senior years, turning their leisurely Sunday drives into a daily ritual, until the day his driving force of independence ended and they felt stranded. I reminded my mom that Bayshore has a new transportation and escort program; news that she quickly passed along to her friend. Suffice to say, this couple is continuing to enjoy their daily drives, but now in the comfort of the back seat.
We tend to see our loved ones as endless pillars of strength, but there comes a time when that pillar needs a helping hand. And while being a family caregiver is a wonderful opportunity to provide loving care to someone who’s very important – it can create some stress.
Support is available to help ensure the dignity, independence and quality of life of your loved one. Support can come in many forms, although it can sometimes be a challenge finding it. Whether support takes the form of a good sounding board, a shoulder to cry on when things get tough, or a navigator to help steer you in the right direction, taking the time to find the right support can make a world of difference to everyone’s day.