It can be tough to sit back and watch your loved one’s health deteriorate. I know it was for me. Daily, I watched my parents struggle with deteriorating health and observed how the strong people that used to take care of me now needed me to take care of them. Yet, I had to come to terms that this was a new normal and I had to get to point where I had achieved a level of acceptance. In the beginning, I had lots of fear and resistance. I felt a type of loneliness or some type of distress, as I wondered how I would deal with this situation. I mean this is not what I was supposed to be dealing with. At times I felt angry. Some of this was misdirected fear that was manifesting itself as anger [with God – yes I admit I thought this!] for allowing this to happen and making this situation come up at the most inconvenient time in my life. I mean while everyone was planning trips and going on to the next stages in their social and family life, here I was running from doctor’s offices to specialist visits and dealing with extended hospital stays. Questions like why now? Why me? Why them? Began to surface in the forefront of my mind. I admit, I didn’t want to deal with it. I sat in a period of denial which forced me to gloss over the situation because I truly didn’t want to believe that this was real. But it was. There came a time where I could no longer function in a level of denial and I had to step up to the plate and make some hard decisions. After all, I was an only child and now both of my parents needed me. I knew I had to step in and become the primary decision maker they needed and not be so focused on just myself.
I wondered what gave me the authority to be the head of someone else’s life. Why did I have to adorn this responsibility? Truth be told -I was, as a young adult, just getting the hang of being responsible for myself. It’s like I was thrust into the fire pit and didn’t have the ability to put out the fire because I didn’t have any water and the air was dry. At some point I realized that I had to take a deep breath and then let go and begin to organize. I learned to just take one step at a time. I’ve made it through the multiple surgeries, extended hospital stays and rehab visits for not only one but two parents, who at one point were in the hospital simultaneously. I learned to accept that challenges will come. However, with careful planning and mental and emotional preparation, I was able to get through this and if you are going through something similar you can get through this too. It made me more resilient and toughened me up. I sought the support of others in similar situations in a caregiver support group, where I was able to connect with those who could understand. I learned that it’s important to not isolate myself. I also learned that it was key to set aside time for myself. A little bit of solo time and time spent with others away from the caregiving situation goes a long way. Giving of myself made me into a better person – more compassionate and empathetic and understanding. It allowed become an advocate and be a voice for others. I never would have thought that by saying yes and accepting this call, that this experience would help me to evolve into a better version of myself. Caregiving will mold you like a piece of clay into a fine piece of pottery –imperfections and all. This is what will make you great.