RHS'69

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Caregiving - the Pain and Joy

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Our golden years are different for everyone. For some it's freedom to do and go where they want. For others there are new and demanding responsibilities.

Gayle Nakama is a caregiver for her parents. It can be a crushing, demanding job. It is also a labor of love for her.

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It's inevitable and we all will be there one day. Life has a beginning and an end. All of us must travel its path and this journey is only what we make of it.

I am blessed to have my parents alive, dad at 88 and mom at not quite 89. As they age I slowly realize that I am looking at my future. We all will age, some gracefully and some not. How we live our senior years in some cases will be out of our hands.

Getting old is not easy, there are those “senior moments” we all face, like forgetting where is the cell phone or car keys or the pen we just laid down and now can't find. Walking into a room and forgetting what you went in there for or going to the store and then forgetting what you went there to get.

The list goes on, if I could remember it.

That stuff is easy to laugh about. The tears come from watching my parents' age. They took care of me, taught me much of what I know and who I am. It's my turn to be there for them.

I consider myself extremely lucky to have both my parents alive and I thank the Lord for each and every moment spent with them. Laughter and long conversations about nothing still occasionally surface; the good old days for them will be like it is happening right now and precious childhood memories light their eyes.

I am blessed to experience these events and it is my privilege to take care of them.

Then there are the brief times of uncontrolled anger and lashing out as if they are fighting this box they find themselves in. You learn to accept the good and ignore the bad. Yes, they are, in their way, still teaching.

If you are a caregiver, you know the moments of sadness and joy that can happen at the same time. You have learned patience and being focused on the moment is what gets us through it, and learning to take it things as they come. It is only a moment and moments will change.

My mom has her health issues - several heart attacks and other problems have made this once vibrant woman into someone at times confused and dazed. I hold her hand and help guide her as best I can. Sometimes just being there is enough.

I see my parents and I see my future. I can choose to be fearful or I can choose live my life as I want it to be. I choose life. Getting old is natural and parents have their children to care for them and there is no greater love we can show them then to be there.

My father has dementia.

Oh, how I love this man who I respect and raised me as his own. Watching him suffer and frustrated over simple things that once came easy is something that hits me hardest.

There was the guilt when I suggested placing him in an assisted living facility. There were the tears when we did. He adjusted and he now loves it along with the family's daily visits.

Sometimes a most painful decision becomes the best one.

Life is something many take for granted. It mustn't be. It's never too late to take great care of ourselves and be grateful for the life we have. Days with loved ones are to be cherished today because tomorrow is never guaranteed.  

My priorities right now are my parents, to ensure that their lives are the best and happiest possible.  I hold no regrets.

Go forward, take care of yourself and be happy.