Hello, my friend.
Remember when you were a kid and wanted to grow up soooo bad?
I do. I wanted to do whatever I wanted without having to ask permission.
Being grown up was gonna be great!
Well, you are an adult now. A grown up. Oh, and everyone in your life is older now too. Your parents are older, if they’re still here. Sometimes you feel like you’re the parent now. I mean you are the parent to your own kids. But your parents need help with stuff too. And they’re just as stubborn as your 4-year-old (or your 14-year-old).
Older means wisdom and experience, right?
Yes! My 97 year old grandpa took to calling himself “The Old Wise One”. And oh, was he wise. But he was also very fragile in many ways. And stubborn. But we’ll get to that in a bit.
Older also means that our bodies and minds change. Our needs get more complicated. We may become less independent. Our lives change.
So, you’re a grown up now and your parents or grandparents need help taking care of themselves. It starts out simple with helping them reach something they can’t reach on their own. Or finding their glasses. Or going with them to the doctor to assist with medication changes.
Sometimes, it hits you like a ton of bricks. Your parent is diagnosed with a condition that immediately changes their life. And yours. Soon, there’s doctor’s visits and medications and catheters and surgeries and in-home health care and physical therapy and paperwork (oh so much paperwork!) and bills and insurance.
Maybe your loved one falls and breaks a hip. That’s how it started for me. Grandpa fell and broke his hip and we decided as a family that he shouldn’t be living alone anymore. So, my partner and I moved in. Free rent for us and companionship for him. Win-win, right?? Well, let’s just say the rent wasn’t free.
I didn’t expect the feelings…so many damn feelings. Guilt, regret, sadness, anxiety, and worry. So. Much. Worry. Because when grandpa was doing well, my dad was on dialysis waiting for a kidney and my mom had mobility issues and chronic pain. And I just wanted a day without someone needing something from me. Just one day.
Life as I knew it was over. And I felt trapped. Trapped in my living situation, trapped in my job, trapped in my mind. I needed a vacation. Cue the laughter turning into crying here.
Oh honey, there are no vacations in caregiving. Remember those week-long cruises you took where no one could reach you? The road trips with the girls to Vegas? Nope. Out of the question. Not gonna happen. Like I said, trapped.
Goodbye freedom. Goodbye privacy and sleeping in and turning off your phone.
Hello, new normal.
Everyone tells you that you need to take care of yourself. Maybe a hot bath will help. Or a massage. You quickly realize that yes, a massage feels amazing until you come home, and you need to clean up the mess that happened while you were gone. All that muscle tension is back in an instant.
You are frustrated and can’t control what’s happening so you try to control your parent.
How’s that working out for you? Yeah, it didn’t work for me either. Funny, people don’t like to be controlled, do they?
So now you’re resentful. You’re pissed off that your parent won’t take their medication or call you when they need help rather than trying to do it themselves and creating a bigger mess for you. You get angry because you have to repeat yourself 15 times a day.
You feel like your life is over.
But what if it wasn’t?
What if you could feel better even if nothing changed with your caregiving situation?
I have the tools to do this and I use them on myself everyday. I’m still a work in progress but my life is drastically different than when I first moved in with grandpa. Grandpa and my dad are now angels watching over me while I help my mom. I’ve done a lot of things wrong – but I’ve also done so many things right.
But I had to be brave and not crawl under the covers and hide from my life– even though sometimes I really wanted to (and still do, if I’m being honest).
I had to have honest, brave conversations with my loved ones. About how they want to live. And how they want to die.
The hardest conversation I ever had was when I had to tell my dad that the doctors couldn’t do anything more and we were bringing him home on hospice. It haunted me for months.
I had to stand up to doctors and ask lots of questions. I had to stop questioning if I was doing the right thing and trust myself. I had to ask for help when I needed it. And, dammit, I planned a vacation. And I went. And my mom missed me, but she was fine and well taken care of because I did it right.
This is not a dress rehearsal. This is it. Our time here with our loved ones is limited and I know you don’t want to spend it swimming in guilt and regret and anger.
This is likely one of the hardest seasons of your life and I can help make it one of the best.
Let’s do this together.