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Nearly 1/3 of Americans serve as family caregivers and millions more serve as paid professional caregivers. The Caregiver Space is sharing their stories.

Meet Andra

I’m 44 and engaged to the love of my life! Mom to one daughter. I love life in the slow lane, watching the snow fall, the river flow past, and lightning storms. An animal lover since birth, I am astounded by the amount of cruelty people can show; to both animals,Andra H and humans. I love to curl up with a great book, and could read all day. Not a coffee drinker, I’m a certified Pepsi-holic, and chocolate lover, I love home made buttery popcorn! I battle with depression almost always.

Besides being a caregiver, I’m a crazy cat lady, dog lover, hunter, fisherman, Mom, artist, cook, reader, doctor, nurse, patient.

I work at an assisted living center for the mentally ill. Our residents are the worst of the worst. The ones that would otherwise be in jail, or in a state hospital. They have burned their bridges. I started working there after ending an unhappy, abusive marriage. I moved close to home, to be near my family; And I found another. So far, I have been there for 12 years. It’s had some really rough moments, and some I would not trade for the world. Every day is different. Bi-polar, borderline personality disorder, TBI, Dissociative Identity Disorder, paranoid schizophrenic, fetal alcohol syndrome, Hunningtons, Downs, Williams Syndrome, Klinefelters, dementia, Autism, sex offenders,  and so many more that I cannot recall off of the top of my head.

I wish someone had told me to never take it personal. These people get frustrated, and angry, and they come up with some really creative profanities to call us. But, it’s not personal. It’s them, getting rid of anger, and frustration, They have no positive ways to do it, not in their heads. I wish I had been told how much of this you are going to carry around with you. Every day. No matter if you are at work, or at home. You don’t get away from it, just because you go home.

Andra H catching a very large fish in a netCaregiving is going to hurt. You will get close to the people you care for. And when they go… wether it be to a different place, or death claims them. It’s going to rip your heart out.  The residents we care for will treat you like you are their best friend and stab you in the back.  It’s not personal. Also, find a hobby. Wether it be reading, crocheting, making flies, crosswords, you need something that’s basically mindless… to let your mind slow down.

What’s the hardest part of caregiving for? Physically? The stress. The rest? Oh geezze.. I would have to say the worst part? Its a tie. A tie between holding a man’s hand while he is dying. When he doesn’t let go of you, even though they are loading him in an ambulance. Knowing that is the last moment you have with someone you have spent so much of their life with. A tie between that and having to have a resident removed from the facility, to go to jail, or a state hospital. Knowing that we weren’t helping that person. Knowing that they will end up in a place where no one will know them. A place that isn’t home to them.

The most rewarding part? Having someone with no family, or the family has written them off, come to you, and tell you how much they appreciate something you did. How much it meant to them. It’s a humbling experience. On days when I just don’t think I can do it for one more minute… those are the moments that keep me there. Knowing you are making a difference in someones life.

One of the strategies that makes caregiving easier is to never yell. If two people are yelling, no one is listening. Speak quietly, and listen to what that resident is saying. Really hear it.  Sometimes its okay to walk away. If you feel like you need a moment, take it. Never take anything personal.

Caregiving has taught me to cherish each day. Patience. Empathy. Love.

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  1. Hi! Thank you for your comment! Actually, about 6 days ago… I got my cow elk! So did DH! Our freezers are on the way to full. I love that feeling. One of the continuing educational classes we are required to take, really emphasized taking up a craft, or hobby. Something mindless. To let your mind have a break. I crochet, put together those christmas ornament kits-with the beads, and sequins, and things… Christmas is my personal crack!

    Its nice to not feel alone. To know the feelings I have, on a bad day, are not just mine. I love this site. It has given me so much support! Its wonderful to meet people, to know. Just know where you are coming from. Most people? Have no idea.

  2. Good to meet you, Andra, for a minute, I thought I was reading about me. I share the Pepsi-holic, and the rest. I match most of your interests, but haven’t hunted since winter of 1968 when a slip in wet leaves nearly shot my boyfriend’s head off (He wouldn’t take me hunting after that.) I love fishing and have tons of books which I haven’t read in a while. I craft (basic crochet, knit, paper and woodcraft). I have been employed in caring for seniors nearly most of my last 45 years. I have done fast food when I needed a break from it all. I specialized in developing activities for dementia, but when my mother was diagnosed, I couldn’t handle it, so the fast food was a nice escape. While the facility I work at doesn’t have any un-controlled bizzare behaviors, we do have a high rate of depression with the dementia. You are so right, knowing you have mad a difference in another person’s life make it all worth it. God Bless.


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