Lesson #23: Guilt, Grieving and Giving In

I’m putting myself right out there with other family caregivers today, and admitting that I’ve been fiercely protecting my “me-time” this month… those oh-so-valuable hours when I can push away my worrying, do something positive, take time to recharge, and shrug off the heavy emotions that weigh me down daily. … More Lesson #23: Guilt, Grieving and Giving In

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Lesson #22: The Stink of Stigma

I became interested in Zach Anner, an up-and-coming YouTube celebrity, because of my friend Christine. She, too, lives life from a wheelchair, diagnosed with cerebral palsy at birth. Currently working on her autobiography, Christine’s memoir opens with “It was lonely being a child in a wheelchair. I was bullied.” In an online interview with Oprah, when asked to identify his biggest challenge, Zach makes a touching admission: “Figuring out that I’m worth this experience, because it’s hard for me to accept that I might deserve this.”  … More Lesson #22: The Stink of Stigma

Lesson #17: Help Help Help!

The other day I walked quickly before a rainfall to secure a lone taxi. I was just behind a man who, as it turned out, also needed the taxi. A rare gentleman, he asked me where I was headed and offered to share his ride. As we awkwardly made small talk in the back seat of the cab, I mentioned that I had moved to the area to care for my parents, both with dementia and Alzheimer’s. … More Lesson #17: Help Help Help!

Lesson #15: Do Your Homework

My mother has shown signs of “sundowning,” which is a peculiar behaviour in some people with Alzheimer’s. The name is apt; when the sun disappears, the change in light can trigger confusion and agitation in the brain. I noticed this in my mother during the last months of winter. At around 6 p.m., she would start to become restless and uneasy, a bit “clingy.” I assumed it was because she didn’t want me to leave, having become dependent on me and our other caregiver. … More Lesson #15: Do Your Homework

Lesson #14: The Cortisol Curse

My older sister, who lives on the other side of the country, has a rough time hearing about all the changes that my parents are experiencing. She’s grateful they are being well cared for, but finds it emotionally distressing to follow their journey from afar. In the past few years, she has made the trip home as often as possible, and for as long as she can. She’s here for a month now, staying with them and offering me some respite. … More Lesson #14: The Cortisol Curse

Lesson #9: Who, Me?

I suspect that many caregivers live in a state of suspended animation, as if their own life is on hold. I’ve had this feeling a few times in the past two years — I turn 60 this year, and I know I should be planning my retirement, but it doesn’t seem appropriate or feasible. I keep renewing the lease on my apartment thinking – how permanent is this living arrangement? How long will my parents need me? It’s impossible to know. … More Lesson #9: Who, Me?

Lesson #8: My Heart Went BLOOM

I had just arrived at my parent’s home for an afternoon of caregiving. Dad was in the garage, and when my car pulled in, he walked up the driveway to greet me. I’m not sure what it was – the big, smiling welcome on his face, the hunch of his shoulders, the sag of his pants, the enthusiasm in his watery, old eyes – but my heart lept into my chest and my throat tightened. I felt I was witnessing, in that flash, the transient nature of life, and its vital yet dwindling presence in this beautiful man, this very moment, this time-honoured soul. … More Lesson #8: My Heart Went BLOOM

Lesson #7: Rushing is a Form of Bullying

We were standing just outside the change rooms at Walmart, where my Mom had been trying on brassieres. Nothing fit or felt right to her, and we had been at it for hours, with me running back and forth for different models and sizes. She needed me in the small stall with her, she was having trouble with the straps and boxes. We were both hot, tired and frustrated. I looked at my watch and said, “Do any of these fit? We really should leave. Dad’s been alone for a while now.” … More Lesson #7: Rushing is a Form of Bullying