Becoming A Statistic

When life throws surprises your way you never really think about what exactly that might turn out to be. In my case it was becoming a Caregiver.

There are plenty of caregivers out there. Some are caregivers of special needs people. Then we have caregivers of disabled people from military personnel to those who were born disabled. You even have caregivers of churches, volunteers of disaster relief and the list goes on.

In my particular life, I was the main caregiver to a mother with dementia; first diagnosed as Alzheimer’s disease. I had no idea what the future would hold in that specific category.

Never in a million years did I ever believe I would have a parent with any kind of dementia. After all, that happens in other families not mine, right?

How do we even come to that conclusion? Do we think our genes are better than someone elses’ and we’re special? What right does anyone have to think that way? God says we are all created equal. It doesn’t matter what color you are or even what ethnicity you might be. We are all created equal. Period.

So why did this happen in my family? I asked that question myself. In time I will learn the answer to that.

I researched Alzheimer’s disease and dementia and it was astounding. According to the Alzheimer’s Association reports, the population in the U.S. age 65 and older continues to increase. Yes, people are living much longer today. By 2025 the number of people 65 and older with Alzheimer’s is estimated to reach 7.1 million people. That’s a 40% increase in 2015. By 2050 the number of people 65 and older with Alzheimer’s may nearly triple to a projected 13.8 million, barring the development of medical breakthroughs to prevent or cure the disease.

Over half of primary caregivers of people with dementia take care of parents. These are real statistics and I became one of those statistics.

Becoming a statistic as a caregiver has proven to have some positive outcome for me. Sharing and helping other caregivers find their way in this unexpected role just might become my new focus and part of a new purpose.

If you’ve become a statistic and have had similar thoughts to mine, feel free to comment or ask questions. Caregivers all over need to share so they don’t feel isolated and alone.

Advertisements

What’s Next?

In my first post I referred to starting life over in my sixties. Now the question posed is: Doing what? I’m still figuring that one out!

I am still working in the spa industry, specifically in skin care. This has been my passion for the last 16 years. There’s always something new, innovative and challenging in this industry. Not only that, I derive instant gratification from helping people with their skin. Teaching a holistic approach to healthy skin isn’t exactly “new” although it is new to many people who are just beginning to pay attention to what’s going on with how their skin looks.

I do realize this is a career that takes a toll on your body, more importantly on the hands. As with most careers, using your extremities and repetitive motions, joints start to hurt, carpal tunnel can become an issue and don’t forget arthritis.

I’ve given all of the above a lot of thought and I must admit, I’m having a hard time even thinking about closing the door on this career.

I have always enjoyed writing but never pursued it in college. It never occurred to me to pursue it for whatever reason. Strange.

Rather recently I have what I refer to as my “driving feelings” moving me towards pursuing writing. I’ve dabbled a little with poetry in past years but only for my own satisfaction.

After my mother passed away I went through grief counseling. All the years I was her caregiver I kept a journal. Journaling was mostly to give me peace and a place where I could privately reflect on each day I experienced with her.

There’s something to be said about journaling; it’s therapeutic. Three years after mother’s passing I was encouraged to write about the journey I had with her. And so I have done just that. I have found writing a memoir about my journey was, and still is, very healing. I discovered another reason as I was writing this memoir…to help other families and caregivers going through a similar situation.

Here’s a quote I read recently that resonated with me: “We can’t control what life throws our way, but we can control how we react to it.” Viktor Frankl , Author of: Man’s Search for Meaning

Beginning Life Again In My Sixties

Never in my wildest imagination would I have ever thought I would be starting life over in my sixties. Yet, here I am doing just that.

What happened? Life. Marriage. Divorce. Raising kids. Becoming a caregiver to my mother with dementia for nineteen years.

Lot’s of changes and even though it sounds a little daunting it wasn’t always so glum. I learned a lot along the way with many challenges thrown into the mix. I’m not bitter or resentful about any of this. However, I had no idea this is how my life would pan out in my sixties.

You might be thinking, “sixty” is kind of up there in age. Honestly, I’m a very young sixty, if I do say so myself. I’m in great health and I take no medications whatsoever. I consider myself fortunate to have learned early on how important it is to take care of yourself and stay healthy. I enjoy outdoor activities from hiking to camping (tent not RV) to spinning around on a dance floor. I like to think of myself as being young at heart as well.

My life from 2001-2013 was spent in the beautiful Blue Ridge mountains of North Carolina. I moved there for a job opportunity in hospitality; a resort spa to be exact. For me, it was an opportunity of a lifetime one I couldn’t pass up. I learned a lot in those twelve years about customer service, hospitality, leadership and so much more. I wouldn’t trade those years for anything.

Before moving to North Carolina is when I started the role as caregiver for my mother. She was widowed and living alone when she was diagnosed with dementia. She was first told it was Alzheimer’s disease; later on we discovered she had multiple dementias. Who knew that was possible? I, for one, did not. The journey began in 1993 and ended nineteen years later.

I had no idea what it meant to be a caregiver let alone a caregiver for somone with dementia. Where does someone go to learn this role? There wasn’t anywhere that I knew of at the time. For me it was more like “on the job training” and doing a lot of research on the subject of dementia. The Alzheimer’s Association is a plethora of information. If you dig deep enough you find there are many resources to get help.

Finding the resources and putting them to good use is another situation. I mean, I’ve never been one to ask others for help, although I enjoy helping others. I didn’t want to burden other people with my problems. How foolish that was. The resources are there for that very reason. To help. To provide information. To provide a listening ear. To guide you in the right direction.

After moving my mother to North Carolina with me, I found I really needed those resources more than ever. Moving to another state not knowing a soul there, I had to fall back on those resources to help me understand the stages involved in dealing with someone with dementia.

Being involved with other family members going through the same thing as I was proved to be the most helpful resource of all. Everyone could truly identify what I was going through and experiencing.

The connection I had with these family members turned out to be some of the closest and dearest friendships I could have ever thought about having. This is where I learned a valuable lesson: It’s okay to lean on someone else.