Wednesday, 16 January 2013
Caregiver Wednesdays- Why I am a Caregiver- pt. 1
Not many sign up to be a caregiver.
When I was a young mom with two little girls, my mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. This was over thirty years ago, and I knew little about the disease. Neither did my dad, who was her primary caregiver. There were some supports available at the time, but nothing like today. When the Alzheimer's Society was suggested to him, he declined, saying, "That's not going to help her." He didn't realize the help was for him. He would do things like take fuses out of the stove when he went out, and tell her it was broken. He got frustrated with how messy an eater she became, and that he had to do all the remembering of appointments and engagements. "Clean and tidy" were high on the virtue list when I was growing up, but now Mom left things everywhere so she could find them.
At the time, my role was minimal. I was busy with my young family, and had no real understanding of what my dad was coping with.
In preparation for a trip to Thunder Bay to visit my sister, my dad asked me to take Mom shopping. It was in the change room that I had a "slap-in-the-face" moment. Mom needed help to try on a camisole, and I realized the woman in front of me, who had sewn a winter coat for my niece a few years ago, couldn't dress herself.
My two year old could dress herself.
A forboding cloud of fear crawled up my skin. What did the future hold?
That trip to Thunder Bay changed all our lives. While driving just outside Kakabeka Falls, they had an accident, and my mother was killed. It devastated all of us, and there were ways in which my father never recovered.
From the perspective of many years, I now see God's mercy. Mom fell asleep in the car after lunch, and never woke up.
Fast forward many years. My children (three now) are growing, and my youngest was in high school. I was offered the opportunity to work with the elderly, in a unit dedicated to the care of people with Al;zheimer's and other dementias. At the time, I had no training, and the career move was radical and scary.
I thought of Mom. I hadn't been able to serve her well, but perhaps I could serve others in her memory.
Within a few weeks, I was sitting with a woman who had an anxiety disorder with her Alzheimer's. I talked softly with her, helping her explore her long term memory and return to happier times in her mind. "I feel safe with you." she said. At that moment, I knew I was where I should be. Her name was Florence, just like my mother's.
I am still there today.