I usually avoid cameras. I prefer the illusion that I look better than whatever shows up after the click or whirr that indicates my image has been recorded digitally or on film. Today I am shedding my vanity to show you what the face of a caregiver came to look like.
Bobbi in 2005 – three years as a caregiver. Four more to go.
When my father-in-law came to live with us I had a full time job. I went to the gym every day. I slept well and I ate right. All the things a caregiver is advised to do. Little by little it all fell away.
First the job went. My boss was understanding. I was even offered the chance to work from home most of the time and go into the office only as needed. We tried it for a while. It didn’t work. I was failing there and at home unable to give either the attention they needed.
Next to go was working out at the gym. A half hour drive there and back plus an hour workout was too much time away. It wasn’t safe long before he needed constant supervision. He’d forget things on the stove and, for some reason, he liked to dry wet tissues on the light bulb of the lamp in his room. The risk of a fire scared me so much I bought a baby monitor to keep an eye on him.
Eating right was next to go. My diet became much like that of an exhausted mother of a newborn or a temperamental toddler. Feed him and grab what you can. The remains of sandwich here, a few chips there. Every now and then a yogurt cup to convince myself nutrition hadn’t fallen by the wayside entirely.
Getting enough rest became a hope for the future. A future I didn’t dare admit I thought about for it meant he would be gone and to wish for this dreadful disease to be over was wrong, wasn’t it?
For seven years I did the best I could. He did the same. It took a huge toll on me. It took his life away. I miss him. I would do it again if needed.
It’s important that people understand how hard it is. Perhaps by sharing what the face of a caregiver becomes someone, maybe even Dr. Phil, will get it. Caregivers need help. Caregivers need you.
Bobbi on July 26, 2014 as we honored him on his birthday and shared his story with the public for the first time. I look years younger and feel it as well. I hope he was smiling along with me.
More voices urging Dr. Phil to help caregivers.
Diane Waterman – Comment: I didn’t see Doctor Phil’s show, but I can tell you from experience, being a caretaker to someone sick or elderly could never pay enough for what these people do. I cared for my sister with help from my children, for the last months of her life. She had Lung Cancer! I have Fibromyalgia myself and was dealing with daily pain. I did everything I could to take care of myself, if it wasn’t for my own adult children, I would not have survived. They gave me breaks night time. The whole year was cruel in many ways, I had to deal with a very dysfunctional family as well! I was relieved when she finally passed on July 10th 2013, not only for her , but for myself!! RIP Mona, I love you and miss you! Xoxo
Pamela Lynne Kemp – Comment: Thank you to everyone for sharing your story. You speak for so many of us.
Beth Anderson – Comment: I am full-time caregiver for my Mom who turns 85 in a couple of weeks. My mom has Alzheimer’s and Dementia as well as numerous other ailments. I have been Mom’s full-time caregiver since 2006 and after a recent fall, I am with Mom 24/7. I split my time at her home and bring her home with me for what she calls ” a mini vacation.” I am not a saint or looking for recognition, I just realize that it take a special person to take on the role of caregiver. I make most of her meals, take her to all of her appointments, set up her medications, bathe her, clean her after messy bathroom visits, take her for walks, take her to the nature center, the pumpkin patch, graduation parties, weddings and if my husband and I take a vacation, Mom goes along. I get occasional breaks, thanks to two of my sisters, but their work schedules are a usually a conflict. My husband has been so supportive through this chapter in Mom’s life as difficult and exhausting it may be. People do not know my story, as I do not know other people’s stories. With that being said, be kind to everyone. Offer assistance whenever you can. Smile, even though you don’t feel you have much to smile about, it could make all the difference in the world. Stay positive! Thank you to all caregivers, I am walking in your shoes! Love you Mom!
Sherri D – Comment: I’ve been caring for my severely disabled son for almost 15 years, with many more to go. Some say it’s my duty as his mother and they may be right, but it’s BC I LOVE HIM I have up my life for him. I’m coming out of a second marriage 😦 I don’t go anywhere with friends or much else. I used to be a dance teacher and dancing was my life. Now I’m a stay at home mom… Lonely and tired. With no relief in sight.
Linnea Hedborn – Comment: I am primary caregiver to my 95 year old mother. Every single day is a battle to be heard by her doctors and my family. I can’t let down for one second…not one. I have to keep so many different balls spinning in the air, no matter what my own financial situation (dire) or mental and physical health is. The latter is going fast. To be told to “take care of myself” is patronizing and unhelpful.
Stacey Belt – Comment: I have quit jobs to care for three family members who have now died. I now need help and find myself unemployed, homeless and about to fight melanoma for the second time. Guess what? I have no one to care for me, no one, zip, zilch, zero! I gave up everything three times to care for family and now the best thing that can happen is I die quickly since I am homeless, jobless, penniless and have no support!! That’s the thanks I get! But hey, God has a special place in heaven for me or so I’m told! What a great thing to look forward to right?!
To contact Dr. Phil directly and ask him to accept my challenge to offer real help to caregivers go to the following links.