A woman lays in bed with the sun shining through the blinds, she holds her phone to her chest, the case says "You Are Enough" on it

Caregivers, You Are Enough

Like most people, my cell phone is the first thing I see every morning. This morning, I reached over, squinted at the time on the glowing little world in my hand, and placed it face down on the pillow next to me.

My summer routine hasn't sunk in yet, or at least my school year routine hasn't been broken yet. The early morning hours still find me awake as if I have to hop up and throw my khakis on, even though my last work day was nearly a week ago. My eyes didn't close back, and I didn't find any more sleep. So, I sort of just laid there looking around the room, not wanting to drag up from beneath the sheets just yet.

The back of my phone case on the otherwise empty pillow caught my eye. Scrawled in white on a background of black are the words, "You Are Enough." "Enough" is underlined for a bit more emphasis.

There was a shift

I moved back in with Daddy about 7 years or so before he passed. He was relatively well most of that time but needed a little help. Eventually, though, there was a shift.

At first, it was gradual. I took over medicine prep and the majority of the cooking. I woke him before I went to work every morning. I put his medicine, oatmeal, and coffee in front of his recliner and made sure he dug in before I left.

In the fall of 2015, that relatively comfortable routine we had fallen into was over in a second. Daddy had taken a trip to the Tennessee River with his sister. One night, she called and told me he wasn't okay.

After his shower, he stepped out of the bathroom with slurred, broken speech and weakness on one side. At the hospital, we were told he had a brain hemorrhage, and it was inoperable due to the high dosage of blood thinning medication he was taking.

A week later, he emerged from the hospital as a man we didn't know and who sometimes didn't know us. He left our house with a bag packed with pajamas, jeans, and t-shirts for his river trip. He returned with dementia and aphasia.

A new job I didn't apply for

I was not qualified. I felt extremely unprepared. I had a new job that I didn't interview for, didn't apply for, and honestly, would have turned down some days if I could.

I was a parent to my parent overnight. I didn't have paid overtime, vacation days, weekends off, or the option to call in.

Whether he was at home or not, his care and the sea of insurance red tape, bills, phone calls, placements, and medications dictated every day. Daddy was in rehab for a bit and in a nursing home during his final days. His days at home in the middle were extremely difficult. He was confused.

You are not alone: A club with infinite members

At times, he was volatile and erratic. At every turn and with every choice, I wondered if I was doing the right thing and if I was doing enough. None of Daddy's children are independently wealthy, and we had to make really tough decisions about his care.

With those kinds of decisions came a lot of those "enough" moments. I think, ultimately, to paraphrase Theodore Roosevelt, the vast majority of caregivers are doing the best they can with what they have where they are.

There's no road map when dealing with a declining parent with dementia; if there were one, it would be forever changing. Words, names, and skills were constantly being rearranged or lost.

Things Daddy had said or done a million times now escaped him. New bumps and potholes popped up daily when we could keep things out of the ditch. Nothing can really prepare you for this kind of thing, but I hope it helps to know that you are not alone. It's not a club anyone wants to be a part of, but members are infinite.

If you are questioning whether or not you are enough, let me assure you. You are. I've never known a caregiver worth their salt without some degree of self-doubt. Worrying if you're doing a good job or not is probably a good indicator that you are.

You are their best hope

I'm on summer vacation now. Daddy's gone, but I still see him everywhere, especially in the summer. Like Daddy, school is never far from my mind. When I saw that white writing on my phone this morning, "You Are Enough," I thought about a couple of things.

I thought about Daddy and my experience while caring for him and how I perform while teaching my babies. Those 2 jobs ran parallel to each other for some time. Caregiving and teaching intersect a whole lot, and each has helped me perform the other.

Motivational speaker, Larry Bell, said to a gym full of educators I was lucky enough to be in, "On your worst day on the job, you are still some child's best hope." I think we can substitute the word "child" for "parent," "spouse," or "loved one," or whatever fits.

If you know why your heart is in it, if you know why you still show up every day, and if you worry about the quality of your efforts, then you are still someone's best hope.

You are, without a shadow of a doubt, enough.

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