Editor's note: The following is a guest post by Barry J. Jacobs, Psy.D., who specializes in helping families cope with serious and chronic medical illness.
AARP and the Ad Council are teaming up to raise awareness about the 42 million Americans who care for a loved one - people like me who are family caregivers. This campaign is designed to help us find the quality information, resources and support that we desperately need.
As I write this post, the thermometer on our back porch here in Phoenix hits a sizzling 110 degrees. But it's a dry heat, you say?! Indeed. Nevertheless, I just fried my toes walking to the mailbox and I think the cactus in my yard is about to pull up roots and head for a dunk in the pool!
The magic number for the trip was "5." Five days of the sound of ocean. Five days of reading magazines. Five days of eating scrumptious seafood in lovely beachside restaurants. Five days of chatting non-stop with my dear friend of 45 years, Laurette. It took me five days of this nirvana to finally wake up in the morning without a panicky feeling, "What didn't I do before I left? What do I need to get done today? What have I forgotten? What ends did I leave loose?" Five full days before I could lie on that beach chair, thoroughly relax and not be uncomfortable with the lack of a schedule. Five days to a "whatever..." atttidude!
In the past year, I've spent close to 40 overnights in the hospital with my parents, plus roughly 10 emergency room visits with them. I dislike going to hospitals ... a lot.
As a caregiver, I make a hundred decisions on my parents' behalf every week. Whenever possible, I make decisions with my parents - but many times I am forced to make decisions for them. Some are easier than others.
It's that time of year when we all stop to reflect on the past year and think about those pressure-filled "New Year's Resolutions." But you know what? I already have plenty of pressure when it comes to caregiving for both of my parents. So this year, as I began to make the usual laundry list of personal "resolutions" such as losing weight, exercising every day, eating more healthily, keeping up with paperwork, addressing a whole list of health issues my parents are facing, simplifying their medications and of course cleaning out the garage and the like (things I'm constantly working on anyway,) I've decided to create a goal instead of a list of resolutions.
The brilliant red Poinsettia is on the table, Christmas card beside it. Visitors come and go bringing hugs and Christmas cheer. There is turkey, stuffing and pumpkin pie in the dining room. In the background, I hear the sound of vintage 1949 Bing Crosby filling the air with "I'll Be Home for Christmas," and with all my heart I wish we were.
They were easy to recognize today, as they always are when we meet at the Hometown Buffet. They stood out among the lunch time crowd; most were looking pretty darn sharp in their "uniforms" - khaki pants, white shirts and navy blue blazers with the crossed sword and powder keg emblem sewn on the breast pocket, the word "Mountain" stitched above it. My Dad, the spiffiest of them all in my humble opinion, topped his outfit off with a bolo tie bearing the same insignia. These are the soldiers of the Arizona Chapter of the National Association of the 10th Mountain Division who almost 70 years ago formed an elite unit that drove the Nazis out of Italy and virtually ended the war in Europe. Today they gathered to celebrate Veteran's Day.
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