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A Caregiver’s Tough Lessons Learned

Dad prepares for throat surgery maintaining amazingly good humor.

A friend recently told me she didn’t understand how I survived 2012. It was a rough year, to say the least, for our family. In retrospect, I know that I do what each of the other 42 million caregivers across this nation do – we just keep going – what else are we to do? The good news is that along with the challenges, there are also many triumphs, blessings and lessons learned. As I look back at the past year, here are just a few of ours:As 2012 began, Dad came home from the hospital with a feeding tube. Two months of struggle and repeated hospital visits followed. He couldn’t eat or remember that he was literally attached to a machine. It was a nightmare.

The support of family and friends helped us get through 2012 after the loss of my niece, Shaelee. (Photo Credit: Rhonda Cagle-Sierra)

On Jan. 4, 2012, my beloved niece, Shaelee, lost her life to suicide at the age of 19. She battled bipolar disorder for most of her short life. There are no words to explain the emotions and pain that have followed her passing.

During the winter and spring of 2012, in the midst of our deepest days of mourning and dealing with multiple health challenges, I realized we could not afford for my parents to remain in their independent living apartment while paying for additional 24-hour care.

Mom suffered a fractured nose in a fall.

My Mom had several bad falls, compression fractures in her spine, a fractured nose and terrible bruises in the winter and spring of 2012 due to poor care from paid caregivers. We struggled constantly with visits to the hospital and trying to work with the caregiving agency.

My Dad, who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease, had a sharp decline in his cognitive abilities after his hospitalization. He could no longer be alone. His vision and hearing have also worsened, complicating his ability to compensate for the cognitive deficits. While he knows I am a familiar person who lives here, a few months ago when I came back from a 10-day business trip, my heart broke as I realized he didn’t really know who I was. It was the day I have always dreaded.

As we dive into 2013, may you have many triumphs and blessings and may your lessons learned come sooner rather than later!

Photo Credits: Amy Goyer

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