Author Archives: Colleen Davis

You are More than a Caregiver

You are more than a caregiver!  Unfortunately, I had almost forgotten that motto. I haven’t written much in the past month. My house was accumulating dust. The garden sat untended. I was so overwhelmed with #caregiving responsibilities that I found myself neglecting important matters.

You are More than a Caregiver

Last year, when I moved my mom back into my house I wasn’t sure what to expect. Doctors had been discussing hospice and I was really afraid she would die among strangers. Bringing her home again felt like the right choice. I could not foresee how much my own life would change. I wanted last summer to be special. I wanted Mom to enjoy the sounds of birdsong on the porch and feel nourished by good home cooking. I didn’t plan further than that.

After we moved her, Mom got stronger for a while. Then she got weaker. I went from being able to manage her hygiene alone to needing another support person. Now we rely on a rotating group of helpers who pop in when I have to take her to the bathroom, or make sure I can get out to go to the bank. My household is like a carousel that keeps spinning. But in the process of managing everything for my mother, I’ve been quietly losing bits of myself.

How #Caregivers Lose Ground

In recent months I stopped finding time to do things that matter:

  • I wasn’t taking my walks. I used to go out almost every day for at least 20 minutes. The weather’s been nice, so there’s no excuse. I just let daily walks slip out of my routine.
  • My personal writing projects were shoved to the back burner. Pieces I’d been working on for months started to seem unimportant. Somehow they never got finished.
  • Mom now needs two people to lift her instead of one, so I can’t leave the house for more than two hours unless there are two aides on duty. My response: I stayed home more and lost time spent with friends and my sweetheart Mike.

I could blame my mom, but I let this happen without noticing the subtle ways things had changed. I’m getting a grip on the wheel again and I can see how even a modest lack of discipline can result in losing track of yourself. Somewhere along the way I stopped fighting the rising tide of responsibility.

Now I see that #caregivers must fight that tide to keep our lives from getting swept away in it. I have to schedule my walks on the calendar if I’m going to take them. In terms of family health, my walks are as important as my mother’s doctor’s appointments. I have to fight the temptation to do so much for others when the itch to write gets strong. Those unwritten pages haunt my dreams. Time with friends is essential, too. I need to take the initiative to make sure I get those social breaks.

Being a #caregiver is hard. We’re forced to make many sacrifices. Our silver lining is a rare, prolonged glimpse into the heart of human experience. If we pay attention, we can learn patience and humility — essential qualities in this crazy world! But we walk a tightrope every day. Without balance, we fail ourselves.

For Caregivers on Mother’s Day

For caregivers on Mother’s Day: Is role reversal is part of your life? My relationship with my mom has flipped around many times. Last year on Mother’s Day, I felt like we were on the Titanic ready to capsize. Mom was weak, then strong, then frail again. But she’s lived to see another Mother’s Day. Wow!

For caregivers on Mother's Day

The two of us have taken a beating as her dementia has progressed. If I didn’t remind Mom about her daughters, she might not know that she had any. One of my shoulders has been dislocated several times and my back feels like it belongs to an old lady. (Maybe I’ve become one!) Mom can’t talk or walk and she can barely stand up even with two people supporting her. But she ate the Mother’s Day brunch I cooked for her and still savored the taste of her favorite foods. Despite her lack of language she managed to express her pleasure through laughter and the smile that never quits.

I’m so happy that we had the chance to do this again. Some days are so hard for her. She gets weird electric shocks that frighten her and scare me, too. When it’s rainy, she seems to sleep through everything but meal time. On many occasions, I could have sworn that we were sharing our last dinner together. Then she somehow finds the strength to revive and I think, “All right, the seas are calm. This voyage will continue.”

It is probably easier to pick a Kentucky Derby winner than it is to predict the course of dementia. We’ve been given time estimates, symptom warnings and lots of family education to help us get through this long process. The only thing that really stays consistent is the deep love we feel for my mom. I used to think that love was mysterious and fragile. But as we celebrate one more miraculous Mother’s Day, I see that love is tough and durable. It is more reliable than a diagnosis and more potent than medicine. It’s a bewildering experience to serve as the caregiver for a parent. When it feels too confusing, love is the only true compass.