As November rolls along we continue to celebrate National Caregivers Month. With Thanksgiving only a week away, we know many people are preparing for gatherings of friends and family (both biological and ‚Äúfound‚Äù). We hope the holiday will be an enjoyable celebration filled with love and community, but we also recognize that the day will be difficult for many, not the least of whom are our caregivers.¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬†¬†
Thanksgiving is often a time of gathering and telling stories as we give our thanks for the good things in our lives. In honor of this tradition and our caregivers we‚Äôd like to share the stories of some New Jersey caregivers. Thank you caregivers for all you do.
Some of our caregivers talked about their gratitude for being able to return the care that had been given to them over the years‚Ä¶ ¬†
‚ÄúIn my mom‚Äôs last years, she was living alone in her apartment at Seabrook Village. Her skin had become very thin, and she was prone to injuries that became much more major than for a younger person. On several occasions she injured a leg, producing large areas where her skin was largely rubbed away, in one case requiring a skin graft.¬† In addition to helping her with hospital and doctor visits, I came over to her home daily during one period to help clean wounds and change the dressing. As the geographically closest one of my siblings these duties fell to me, and I regarded it as an honor to be able to give back to someone who had given me so much.‚Äù ‚ÄìTinton Falls
One caregiver wrote about the bonding moments that occur during caregiving‚Ä¶
‚ÄúTwo weeks ago, one of my Mom’s high school friends passed away. Mom wanted to go to the viewing and pay her respects. Since Mom had her shoulder surgery, she can only drive short distances, but this ride was going to take the better part of the day, so her driving wasn’t possible. Instead, I picked Mom up at the retirement complex where she and Dad live. We then drove back to New Jersey and up Route 1 to the Funeral Home. Mom is an accomplished map reader so she was an able co-pilot for this part of the trip.
This was a very difficult day for Mom emotionally. Marge was her last living high school buddy. During our ride, we talked about Mom’s memories of high school, Marge’s family, and Marge’s visits to my Grandparents’ home. When we got to the funeral home, we were greeted by Marge’s daughter, Nancy and son, John. It was comforting to meet and speak to them about their mother. Mom got the chance to bid farewell to her friend and we spent some time looking over the many photos of Marge and her family. It was helpful for Mom to see all these pictures, because she hadn’t seen Marge in many years‚Äîthey simply spoke on the phone. The ride home was peaceful. We talked about how welcome Nancy and John made us feel and what a lovely family Marge had.
Mostly, this was an unexpected day for bonding with Mom. Marge was from our hometown. The funeral home has seen our family on numerous occasions for the mourning of relatives and friends who have passed away. As stressful and annoying as the driving was that day, I know how much it meant to my Mom and I wanted to do it for her.‚Äù ‚ÄìLawrenceville
Some caregivers told us about the challenges of watching parents grow older and increasing caregiving duties‚Ä¶
‚ÄúNearly every Thursday for the past several years I have been visiting my Mom and Dad in Pennsylvania. Dad just turned 90. Mom will be 88 in a few days. Eighteen months ago, Dad was diagnosed with bladder cancer. His treatment lasted for 6 weeks and I accompanied him for each office visit and the follow-up appointments with the doctor. Thankfully, the treatments were successful and Dad is cancer-free. Mom had shoulder replacement 12 months ago. I stayed with Mom and Dad after the surgery for a short while to ensure that Mom was able to get around on her own. As with Dad, I went to follow-up visits with Mom and she has recovered most of the use of her left arm. Often times, I take my Mom (and sometimes Dad) shopping and we run errands in the neighborhood. What has become more difficult, is watching how each of them is declining in what they can or can’t do and what they remember or don’t recall.‚Äù ‚ÄìLawrenceville
Others talked about watching their own parents become caregivers for each other, both the trials and the lessons learned‚Ä¶
‚ÄúI am in awe watching my almost-92 year old mother caring for my Alzheimer’s stricken father. It is not only about the patience, compassion and love she extends him, but even about the occasional short-temper and impatience. She extends herself about as far as she can and forgives herself, mostly, when she comes up short of her goals.
And she not only takes care of him, but to the extent she can of herself: she has arranged for volunteers and paid aides and relatives to help her and gets herself out, whether it’s to attend meetings or just get errands done, in order to maintain her mental and emotional equilibrium. I do think that extending his care to others is not only a necessity for her, but even a boon and blessing to them in the sense of affirming our humanity‚Äîthat we are all in this together and that extending care and caring to others is a fundamental way of sharing that.
I know their current situation of my mom providing continued care in their home cannot last much longer, and has only been possible thus far because another daughter lives with them. And her children are all concerned about the effects of months of sleep deprivation and the curtailing of her activities (as well as watching your partner of 70+ years deteriorate in this horrible way), but she has managed so far with fortitude, help, a fair amount of grace, and a great deal of love.‚Äù ‚ÄìCentral New Jersey, with parents in California
Ultimately, caregiving is one of the most selfless and loving acts a human being can perform for another. It is a life-changing experience, and it can be rewarding, painful, hopeful, and challenging. According to Pew Research Center, approximately 25% of Americans aged 45-64, and 17% of 65+ aged adults, are caring for an older adult. Whether you are a caregiver or anticipate becoming one in the future, caregiving dramatically affects the lives of everyone involved. As our nation and state continue to experience the ‚ÄúGraying of America,‚Äù we can expect the numbers of caregivers to rise alongside those who need care. So we recognize and thank you, caregivers, for all you‚Äôve done and all you continue to do. Happy National Caregivers Month to you, and thank you to our caregivers who were so willing to share their stories with us.