November 11, 2019
Caregivers Are My Heroes
My dad was a lucky guy. His life was rich with people who liked and loved him, and those gifts became even more important after his stroke because his daily care needs were demanding and time-intensive. My mother was his primary caregiver, although she delegated certain tasks to his nurses who were with him when she was at work. She also advocated for him with his doctors, and she was his lifeline to the world beyond his bed. She was, and still is, amazing.
My grandparents, Dad’s folks, did what they were able to do. At their stage of life, that mostly meant just showing up and spending time with the family, which was sometimes just what was needed. During the year he was in the hospital, they visited every week. When he was home, they continued to visit weekly, and once my parents were more mobile they put a ramp at their house so my dad could visit them. I don’t know if they provided any other assistance to my parents, but in my eyes the fact that they showed up regularly was enough.
I also tried to be helpful in my own ways. My husband and I, along with our dog, shared many adventures with my parents (some successful, some not so much!). But we tried, and as with my grandparents’ efforts, sometimes just showing up and trying to be supportive made a little difference for Mom and Dad.
After I moved to Minneapolis, luck would have it that my sister Jennifer moved back to our hometown. She, along with my mother of course, helped Dad with his crazy ideas of remaking items to help him live just a little bit better. They modified wheelchairs and motor homes, and miscellaneous other devices. It was amazing what they could do as a team! So much creative energy! I am tired just thinking about it again.
Jennifer’s children never knew their grandpa before his stroke, so they grew up understanding his limitations. Yet, I wonder if they looked like limitations to them at that time. They would climb up on his bed and feed him Oreos and Cheetos. He would get such a kick out of that ritual, and they knew just how to do it. From this aunt’s perspective, they had wisdom beyond their young years. They had so much patience with him and were so kind and loving to him. It still warms my heart. Now Kelsey is taking that loving kindness into her work with disabled and challenged families. What a gift.
But in my father’s life, the person who made every day possible was my mother. I know that he deeply appreciated all that she did, even in his most frustrated times. He knew it was my mom who was getting him through it all.
All of you caregivers amaze me! I honor you, and send you my hopes and prayers that you will be blessed with much patience, creative energy, and stamina. Luckily there are many resources now for caregivers to utilize – thank you internet! Above all, please do not forget to take care of yourself. You can’t be there for your loved one if you are not healthy and thriving yourself.