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.