Caregiving is a challenging yet deeply rewarding experience. Having cared for my mother for more than six years, I know how important your job can be. Caregviers play an essential role; one that sometimes does not receive the appreciation it deserves. Some caregivers work around the clock providing care to loved ones like I did with my mom. Others provide support for a set period of time each week, others from a long-distance. Regardless of your role, please know that you are so very important, and that you are not alone. There are millions of people providing care for a loved one and there are people who you can turn to for support.
As my mother's Alzheimer's Disease progressed, I experienced both trials and tribulations. I was blessed with a wonderful mother and I never regretted caring for her. Throughout her illness, my mother maintained her comedic personality. She made me laugh each day, and I consider it an honor to have cared for my mother, my best friend. When her illness presented an obstacle, I sought help from family, friends and the community. My family helped when I called on them for something. I prayed for peace and acceptance when my mom refused to eat. Neighbors, friends and our church community visited, offering their comfort. And, when my mom seemed to be nearing the end of life, I turned to Arbor Hospice. They provided me with additional support and ensured my mom's medications and supplies were delivered right to my door.
I know this is not what all caregivers experience. Sometimes, caregiving can be too much to handle. Other times, caregivers do not have a community of support like I did. I encourage you to let go of the things you cannot control. No matter how much you wish to make the disease go away, sometimes you cannot. Finding peace with that may be a short or long journey. It is important to remember that like you, your loved one cannot control his/her disease. I treated my mom like nothing was wrong; I talked to her the same way I did before Alzheimer's Disease. I remembered that it was the disease that affected my mom's memory. In her heart, she knew who I was.
Remember that you cannot neglect yourself. You have to share the love you are giving with yourself. It is much easier for your own needs to be buried in your "to do" list. You are taking on a large share of responsibility for not only yourself, but another person. If you wear yourself out, you will not be of any help to your loved one. Seek support from family, friends, neighbors and your community. And always remember that you need not be alone.
Rosemarie Gray is the daughter of one of the thousands of patients Arbor Hospice cares for each year. Thank you Rosemarie for sharing your story and advice to the millions of other caregivers throughout the country.