Caught by Surprise: A Caregiver’s Story

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VOCATIONAL WELLNESS – Working keeps us engaged and growing. If you’re not working, volunteer to help others, get involved in an avocation.

It was March of 1985 when I was violently jerked into the world of caregiving. It wasn’t a delicate, deliberate, planned process at all. It was jarring, understood (an unspoken, unsigned contract in our family), and overwhelming.

I was pregnant and three weeks overdue in my last pregnancy when I received word that my father had committed suicide. He had retired early, and was caring for my grandparents and ailing mother. Retirement wasn’t working out as he had planned, and he tried to re-enter the workforce. Met by a wall of ageism for the older-than-average worker trying to enter the workforce in a new field, he became discouraged and began a downward spiral which led to his depression and death.

I cried so hard upon hearing the news that I went into labor and delivered my daughter a day later. Upon leaving the hospital, I entered into a new world that I had no time to plan for. I had gone into the hospital with two people dependent on me (my two-year old and four-year old sons) and came out with six dependents, including my new little girl. It wasn’t their fault. It just was.

Fortunately, I was working at the time as a full-time mother at home. That at least gave me the freedom I needed to meet everyone’s needs during the course of each day. Had I been working outside the home, it would have been a completely different story I’m telling right now.

Between visits to doctor appointments, hospitals, and personal cares for seven (including myself); grocery shopping, managing finances and housekeeping chores for three households, I had no time for “a real”  job. This must have been before the caregiving support networks were formed because I never heard of them at the time, and didn’t even self-identify as a caregiver. I identified with the fact that I was a mother, a daughter and granddaughter – that’s it.

I was also a wife, and that ended in 1989. It wasn’t a casualty of caregiving. It was actually more the result of beginning to take care of myself. Lots of things changed in 1989. They had to. I “hit bottom,” and had nowhere to go but up. I began working outside the home again in 1991, and am still with the same employer today.

My grandfather passed away at home after a courageous battle with cancer. Grandma spent a little over a month in a nursing home before she succumbed to cancer. My mother died in her home a few years ago. In between, my children all grew up and left the nest. Now it’s just me and my wonderful new husband who has been by my side for the last 17 years. He was sent to me as an angel in disguise in the midst of my single caregiving days.

I know my story isn’t unique. It’s mostly daughters who care for their aging family members when they need help. It seems to be a rite of passage; an honor, despite its difficulties, that is bestowed upon some of us as we are refined by age.™

12 Comments

  1. picasso1

    Your new husband may have come to you as an angel in disguise, but you were an angel to your grandparents, mother, and children. God Bless You, and best wishes for many, many years of peace and happiness.

    • You are so kind, Lisa. I never thought of it that way.

  2. Malia Fox

    Kathy, such a strong spirit! I have recently renovated and moved my 92 year old mother in to live with me. Interesting to be once again living with a parent. 🙂 Loving it and every day is a reflection of who I am, who she is and who my children will become. I wish more people would consider the option of multi-family residing. It is truly a blessing for all involved.

    • Much easier than caring for three households! Enjoy your time together, Malia.

  3. Hi Kathy. What a great article and story. Your courage is very inspiring and I’m glad you have taken care of yourself. Hope it is okay that I shared this with a couple of communities on G+.

    • Thanks so much for sharing it, Forrest. That is the best compliment a blogger can get!

  4. Kathy, such a powerful story. Really amazing and inspiring. Thanks for sharing. In my limited experience, I know of a lot of ‘sons’ who have taken on the caregiving duties – I think that yes, it’s a rite of passage for daughters, but men are becoming caregivers more and more as our society changes. I think it’s a nice trend too.

    • David, Thanks for taking the time to comment. I’m glad to hear the trend is changing. We need to help each other share the load if at all possible.

      • Absolutely. Our whole family really jumped in with our mother-in-law last year when her health went downhill…thank you again for sharing your story!

  5. Omg! Ultra cool blog post. Now i’m book-marking this web site at once. Kudos!

Trackbacks

  1. This is such a courageous story, I thought it would be inspirational fodder for others…. | Art of Selfishness

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