A Caregiving Story of Survival

By on January 27, 2015

By Cindy Laverty –

Caregiving creeps up on us when we least expect it. We women are busy living our lives; working in careers, caring for our children, our spouses, our partners and trying to find a few minutes each day to care for ourselves. Sadly, many women have forgotten the need for self care and yet, this is the single most important element of life that women need to be in touch with. Today’s working woman yearns for some down time – time alone or time spent with friends. Our world is wrought with stress and busyness. How do we survive and live a life of richness, generosity of spirit and internal peace? Sometimes it takes an avalanche for us to find these answers.

My story is different than most, but my struggles were universal. I cared for my ex father-in-law (yes, my ex-husband’s father) for almost six years and I was wholly unprepared for the journey. I was asked by my ex father-in-law, (with whom I had a close relationship), one night to pay his bills and check on his wife (who suffered from severe arthritis and dementia) while he had open-heart surgery at age 83. His reason for having such invasive and risky surgery was so he could see his granddaughter (my daughter, whom he called “the butterfly”) graduate from college and, he said to me, “Without this operation, I won’t make it.”

I agreed without giving it any further thought, never imagining the impact this would have on my life. I naively thought this promise to help out would be a minor investment of my time. My fulltime career, although not personally fulfilling, was nonetheless, very fulltime. My daughter was heading off to college, three thousand miles away and she needed her mom. My husband needed a partner, a best friend, and truthfully, neither of us understood the powerful changes that were about to become our lives. But I said, “yes,” and therefore, I had a responsibility.

The fourteen-hour operation was only the beginning. I knew nothing of the geriatric world or the needs of those living in it. I learned quickly about the bureaucracies and protocols that accompany geriatrics, and I spent the first year with my life spinning out of control.

My agreement to pay bills and check on his wife quickly turned into a full-time obligation. She was suffering from severe dementia and her caregivers were not properly caring for her. The house was in disrepair; bills needed attention; and visits to the hospital were daily. For him, there were numerous medical issues to deal with: insomnia, depression, seizures, weakness, functionality, balance, and the daily challenges the elderly experience. My role was not going to be temporary. I didn’t have time to think about the consequences of this change for me. I was on call 24/7, 365 days a year.

I stopped sleeping. I couldn’t eat. I never saw my family, let alone my friends. I was losing myself and even though friends and family were concerned, no one said anything. Slowly I began to figure this out on my own. I knew I wouldn’t survive if I didn’t, so even though I had precious little time, I began my personal journey of survival. I learned to become an Empowered Caregiver.

Mothers have the most difficult challenges with caregiving. We’re accustomed to solving problems, giving to everyone, being present, and putting our lives on hold. We have quietly been taught that the role of mother is of the utmost importance, but few of us were ever taught that caring for ourselves is the key to living a joyful and productive life. We simply put ourselves on the back burner until crisis occurs and we find our personal resources have been totally depleted.

For Baby Boomers, this is often the call that something has happened to a loved one. If not planned for in advance, caregiving can wreak havoc on families. The single most important thing you can do is to create a plan for the senior care journey. In my personal coaching work with caregivers, this is the primary step that has been omitted. It’s too difficult to have “the conversation,” or it’s too painful to think that you might be required to add one more responsibility to your life. In true human fashion, we hope and pray that it doesn’t happen to us. Odds are that it will.

This is a journey and it’s about learning to live life on life’s terms. It’s stepping outside of your comfort zone and asking for help. It’s setting personal boundaries and learning to care for yourself. On July 2, 2009, my ex father-in-law passed away at home with his family surrounding him, but not before he made it to Virginia and saw his granddaughter graduate from college. It was truly one of life’s sweetest moments.

My life is rich today because of this experience. I learned a million little things from being a caregiver, but the most important lesson I learned is to celebrate each day, and how blessed my life is because of giving to another.

Cindy Laverty is dedicated to Empowering Cargegivers and teaching them strategies to move from overwhelm into Empowerment! She is the author of two books Caregiving – Eldercare Made Clear & Simple and The Empowered Caregiving Organizer. You can reach Cindy at http://www.thecarecompany.biz/.

About Cindy Laverty

Cindy Laverty is dedicated to Empowering Cargegivers and teaching them strategies to move from overwhelm into Empowerment! She is the author of two books Caregiving – Eldercare Made Clear & Simple and The Empowered Caregiving Organizer. You can reach Cindy at www.thecarecompany.biz.

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A Caregiving Story of Survival