The Surprising Rewards and Challenges of Caregiving

 
 

Caregiving often calls us to lean into love we didn’t know was possible. –Tia Walker, co-author of The Inspired Caregiver: Finding Joy While Caring for Those You Love

I lost Mama in June 2020 after a ten-year battle with Alzheimer’s Disease. I lost Daddy just a few months later in December 2020 to stage IV lung cancer. I was the primary caregiver to both, right up to their last breaths. Being their caregiver was challenging, frustrating, and exhausting, as well as rewarding beyond measure. The experience allowed me to honor them for their lifetime of sacrifice and giving, and I was humbled to have them reward me with their trust. Much of our time together was filled with tenderness and mutual acts of compassion as we dwelled in the knowledge that we needed to truly appreciate every second of each day we had together. The experience was also emptying and fulfilling. Watching my parents be the receiver of care revealed to me our shared humanity. Through to the end of the lives of the two people who knew me before I knew myself, I was stretched to love more than I ever thought possible.

Today, more than one in five Americans are classified as caregivers, meaning they have provided care to an adult or child with special needs within the past 12 months. And with November being National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month, the feelings and experiences I had are shared with many others. Like most other caregivers, I worked full-time. Balancing the need to fully care for the people I loved with the demands of a time-consuming career was not easy. And while every caregiver’s experience is different, all caregivers struggle with the mental, physical, and emotional health of both themselves and their loved ones. In my case, caregiving for my mom spanned from 2010 through 2020 in living arrangements that went from living in her own home, to independent living in a retirement community, to assisted living, to living with my husband Larry and me, and finally to a nursing home. During all this time, I was a full-time Chatham County Recorder’s Court judge, and in 2012, became Chief Judge Tammy Stokes. But no matter your career, the myriad responsibilities, emotional turmoil, and fatigue that comes with caregiving challenges even the most adept juggler. Like most caregivers, I often struggled to keep all the balls in the air, and sometimes one would fall. When my parents got sick, however, I quickly learned that the most important obligations in my life suddenly became distributing meds, doing the daily laundry, bathing and grooming mom, making sure my dad’s apartment was safe and clean, and responding to emergency medical calls at all times of the day and night. I also learned that we rise and become the best version of ourselves when we uplift others.

I feel truly blessed, honored, and thankful for the opportunity to care for my parents, and I have no regrets. I learned that the people we love are precious, and that every single moment we get to be with them is truly a gift to be appreciated. After all, one fact remains true for all of us: in life, there is no such thing as a do-over.

1 thought on “The Surprising Rewards and Challenges of Caregiving”

  1. I celebrate your endurance and compassion for family and our communities ♥️ Resilience it’s in our DNA … been there Patricia Bowers-Cooper🙏🏽

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