Dear PARENTAL CAREGIVER ❤️
My mom had a “moderate to massive” heart attack. I spent 6 years taking care of her day and night, feeding her, bathing her, checking her blood glucose, pouring her meds, arranging her ongoing medical appointments with 10 specialists, picking her up off the floor after every fall. New medical ailments continually arose. Her body broke down because she never got over losing my dad who was called home to Heaven when I was 1. She had a deep underlying depression her whole life. In the end, she grew to have dementia which became full blown Alzheimer’s. I had no support system and I did it all on my own.
I know it’s incredibly hard. Like you, I was mistaken by doctors for being her nurse because I knew too much. Every medication, dosage, and use by heart. Every possible medical option and choice. I researched it all. I became a medical advocate. It was my J.O.B.
I gained 40 lbs seemingly overnight. I developed major depression disorder. Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome. Debilitating vertigo attacks. Severe anxiety. Angry outbursts from my inability to cope. Sobbing episodes in public when I sensed the end was near.
I got the calls from the nursing homes and hospitals when my mom was admitted for week(s) long stays asking me when I was going to come see her. The only small handful of times she was admitted in the 6 years I spent with her day and night without a break in site. I had the same conversation with every nurse. That I never got respite. That I was so utterly fatigued that I was using this time as my “vacation” to literally sleep and not have to tend to the unending needs of a sick, older parent. Because unlike them, this wasn’t a job I left every day and got a break from. That this was the most mentally, emotionally and physically draining period of my life. So no (despite them trying to make me feel guilty) I wasn’t coming in. The daily calls to my mom would have to do. I literally wasn’t capable of more, lest I end up in a mental hospital.
I know the comments from “well-meaning” people who ask when are you finding a job because they have no clue that being a medical advocate is a JOB the same way being a mother is except it’s to a grown adult who is severely sick and requires extreme care. Harder than ANY paid job out there. Meanwhile, you are looking into emotional rehab facilities because you feel like you are losing your mind from the constant stress and lack of respite. Facilities that you can’t go to because you are the LAST priority. You have the most difficult, unpaid job to do on the planet and no one understands.
I know the painstaking, agonizing decisions of whether or not they should have that surgery because either way they seem to have a high probability of dying. Or if you should agree to DNR. In what twisted world would children have to agree to “Do Not Resuscitate” my parent? Yours and mine.
My mom has since passed and it’s been 4 years. But I haven’t forgotten. I know it’s not easy. I know others who haven’t been through it don’t understand at all. That they don’t have the faintest clue what it’s like to take care of another human being who is your physical size, ill beyond measure, and the person who was always supposed to take care of you. But somehow in this wickedly cruel game, you are now taking care of them as you watch them physically and emotionally deteriorate and revert to infancy before your very eyes.
I know what it’s like to do it all alone as you beg and plead for family support but are met with mostly deaf ears until your utter disbelief and sadness turns into anger. I know what it’s like for it to fall all on your shoulders and no one give a damn. You feel suffocated. Like you cannot breathe. Like you can’t go on another day. Like you need someone to save you, but you know no one is coming.
My journey might be over but I lived this day and night for 6 years. I know there are some days you just want to give up. Days you want to curse your life. Days you even think it might be better that your parent is no longer here because it’s so miserable for both of you. Days you feel like you can no longer carry the burden. Days you resent the fact that your life has been put on hold, and your dreams as well. And the shame you feel for even thinking these things. These thoughts, although uncomfortable to admit, are normal. Ask any caregiver support group or therapist. You are living in a pressure cooker. You are sacrificing your OWN health and life for the sake of another. You are often more ill in the end than the parent you cared for. And you did it all in the name of love. You are NOT terrible for thinking these things. You are HUMAN.
I’m here to tell you you CAN get through it. You WILL get through it. I have been there and I’m still standing. Yes, it’s over for me but it’s not really. Because the grief has been overwhelming and the thoughts of it being better for her to not be here anymore have turned into thoughts that I would do anything, give anything and everything I have up to have her back, if but for a moment. But it’s permanently over. Still, I’m standing.
You will not only survive this, you will triumph. You will find out you’re so much stronger than you ever imagined possible. You will see this is just a season in your life. That this too shall pass. The resolve you have now…you will be shocked at how it will get you through other significant obstacles in life. Because nothing can ever compare to this. So if you can get through this, you can be sure you will get through ANYTHING.
Being there for your parent now will create an indelible bond that you will be thankful for later. You will be so happy that you were there for them. Content. At peace. You will not wonder what moments you could have shared because you didn’t miss any. You will know if you don’t already that IT WAS THE RIGHT DECISION.
The one constant in this uphill battle for me was God. Know that He is there watching over you, giving you the ability to go on, even when you think you can’t any longer. He is there for you even when no one else is. He knows your pain, your sadness, your struggle. He is watching over you.
If no one else has told you yet in this unbelievably stressful struggle, I want you to know I am praying for you. That you’re given every ounce of strength possible. You are the David in this Goliath of dis-ease. You will may feel weak now, but you will survive and even prosper.
Tarla lives in Los Angeles with her two puggles and enjoys spending her free time at the beach. Her most important role to date was daughter and caregiver to her mother who passed away in 2014 from heart disease after a 6 year battle with the disease. Tarla Makaeff is a former freelance copywriter turned personal branding and social strategist. She uses her online social media presence to educate, inspire, and uplift others.