A younger woman holds the hand of her mother, an elderly woman, who sits under an old-fashioned hair dryer at a hair salon.

The Journey of a Caregiver

The journey of a caregiver for a person with Alzheimer’s disease is a very difficult one; I can not sugar coat that. Caring for a loved one as they decline due to Alzheimer’s or another type of dementia will be one of the most challenging experiences of your life. Often times it may break your heart and fill you with sadness. It will be very stressful for the person with Alzheimer’s and their entire family. But this journey can also be one that will reveal to you, and your loved one suffering from Alzheimer’s, a strength within yourselves that you never knew you had, which can be a very good and powerful force.

There are tears in my eyes as I write this to all of you, fellow caregivers, because I know the difficult journey you now have before you. But believe me when I say that you are stronger than you know. Have faith in yourself that you can do this.

What I've learned as a caregiver

Through being a caregiver for my mother, Jewel, I have learned just how precious each and every day of our life truly is. So often we think to ourselves that we have all the time in the world to accomplish the things we want to do. That there will always be plenty of time to spend with our family another day. But we are not guaranteed a tomorrow. Through being a caregiver for my mother, I have learned the value of love. I've also learned how important it is to tell the people in your life how much you love and respect them. And I've learned to appreciate every day with your loved one because you can not get those days back.

The gift of time

As a caregiver for my mother, I was given the rare gift of spending more time with her, time that I may not have been able to spend with her otherwise. Our world is so fast-paced and hectic, but mom’s decline made it necessary for me to slow down certain activities and work to focus more on her. Every doctor’s appointment, lunch outing, visit to see family and friends, drive to her favorite places... we went together. All of those necessary daily activities we did together.

My mother, Jewel, was part of a generation that visited her hairdresser every Friday to get her hair done for the weekend. Just like the U.S. Postal Service - nothing could stop her on her weekly trip! Not rain, wind, sleet or snow! Nothing, that is, until her Alzheimer’s tried to stop her. When she was no longer able to drive herself. I would get out of work early every Friday to take her to her hairdresser appointment. Every Friday, we would follow the same routine but we loved it. I appreciated the gift of time together during this difficult journey that we were on. Oh how I miss our Friday trips now that my mom is no longer with us.

Grateful for the time with my mom

I remember how often my mom would say to me, "I’m like your child now; you’re taking care of me." I would try to remind her of how she took care of me when I was young with love and kindness. And that I was grateful to be able to take care of her now. The journey of a caregiver takes us full circle as our roles become reversed.

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