beautiful beta fish

Tyler is a young millennial caregiver that takes care of her grandmother. This is her story.

Tell me a bit about yourself!

I’m 22 years old, and I grew up about 40 minutes from Chicago. I moved from a busy town to the country with my mom, and stepdad about four years ago. I am currently attending a junior college for Criminal Justice, and I have one more class to go until I get my Associate’s. I haven’t decided if I want to go on to a four year yet, or if that is even possible for me.

How did you become the caregiver of your loved one?

I became a caregiver three years ago for my grandmother when her husband decided that he could not care for her any longer and was going to put her into a nursing home down in Florida. My mom did not want her to live in a nursing home because she is a nurse and has heard many stories of neglect and abuse in homes, especially with Alz/dementia patients.

You grow and change with every obstacle life throws your way and you mold into a new person.

Tyler and her grandmother

How has, or has it, your relationship changed with the loved one that your are caring for?

My relationship with my grandma has changed drastically since I started caring for her. Three and a half years ago I had broken up with my ex fiancé because he was addicted to heroin. And after many relapses and fights I called it quits. I was devastated at the time and mainly stayed in bed all day for months. When my grandma became my responsibility I was heartbroken and deeply depressed. I didn’t give her the attention she deserved, and I was a self-centered kid still. But the depression ended and lessened with time as those things do, and I started to enjoy taking care of her and helping her. For the first time in my life I was spending time with her for more than a few days a year. Her and her husband retired when I was young and moved to Florida, so I did not see her often. I can’t say I even remembered her voice before she got sick. But now my grandma Margaret is my best friend.

How do you handle juggling school/work with caring for a loved one?

Caregiving is my only job. I take one to two classes at a time when I can so I can be home when my mom is at work. My grandma lives with us and when my mom works Monday-Friday I am caregiving, I have one class that my stepdad stays home during so I can attend. I guess the truth is I could get another job but if something comes up with my mom no one would be able to watch my grandma, my stepdad reluctantly does it twice a week for two hours. The place my mom has worked for 20+ years is shutting down soon so nothing is certain anymore. I feel it would be selfish to clutter my schedule any more than I already do with hanging out with my friends a few times a week. It would just cause unnecessary stress for my mom.

What is the hardest thing about being a young caregiver?

I think the hardest thing about being a young caregiver is that I’m 22 and I have nothing to show for it. My best friend is 24, has a Master’s Degree, and just passed all four sections of the CPA in one try. I feel like a loser all the time. I graduated high school almost 5 years ago, and I don’t even have a degree that should have taken me two years to achieve. I guess I feel like everyone is moving forward and I am frozen in time. I have classmates getting married and already on to baby number two, and I spend most of my days at home.

The hardest thing about being a young caregiver is that I’m 22 and I have nothing to show for it.

What is the most rewarding thing?

The most rewarding thing about being a caregiver. It’s the little things, like waking up and walking downstairs to see my grandma’s smiling face happy to see me and start her day. Hearing her laugh, seeing her eat her food that I make her. Knowing she is as healthy as she can be with all her issues, and knowing no one else knows her body language, medicines and doses and how to do my job as effectively as I can. She is truly my life.

Tyler and her grandmaIf you had something you would change in your caregiving experience what would it be?

If I could change anything about my caregiving experience I would change how my Aunts and Uncles have reacted to her being sick. We all live within five miles of each other but no one comes over to see her unless it’s her birthday or a special occasion. I just wish people would have more love and respect for their own mother than that.

What do you do when you have 15 minutes of free time?

When I have time to myself I am usually doing something with my fish tanks. I have 6 betta fish and that is one of my only hobbies. Having clean tanks and healthy, happy fish makes me happy. I find peace when I watch them swim and that is something that I do for myself. They also help ease my insomnia usually, except for tonight, I haven’t been to bed yet and it’s 5:30 am.

In ten words or less, what has caregiving taught you?

Ten words or less, what caregiving has taught me. Absolute patience and understanding.

What advice would you give to other caregivers?

My advice to other caregivers would be to try not to get angry or hurt when your LO (loved one) doesn’t cooperate. Step back and breathe, don’t argue. Imagine how they feel, are they confused or in pain? They are suffering and need your help. If you do get frustrated walk away for a few seconds (if you can) and come back.

What’s your best piece of advice for life in general?

Best piece of advice for life in general? I would say that no matter how difficult things get or how many times you have felt extreme heartache or disappointment, life goes on. You are stronger than everything that has ever tried to destroy you. You grow and change with every obstacle life throws your way and you mold into a new person. I would say just make sure you become a better person. It’s easy to be negative and mean when your situation is not ideal. But if you have to force yourself to be kind, do it! Don’t judge, and always try to say something nice instead of something negative. Let go of hate, because it only destroys you. Forgive people who may not deserve it because you deserve peace, and you will never achieve peace if you hold on to negative emotions.

Written by Krystel Edwards
Krystel Edwards is a senior English-Creative Writing major at The City College of New York. In addition to interning at The Caregiver Space she is also an Edward Koch fellow which is a fellowship that focuses on public policy and advocacy. She is in the CCNY Honors program as well as the Publishing Certificate Program. Throughout the years, she has participated in a variety of student clubs such as Strive For College where she served as a mentor for low-income students. Currently, she is volunteering at Isabella Geriatric Center, community-based organization in Washington Heights that aids in providing a home, rehabilitation, and excellent care for the elderly. She looks forward to joining the 2015 Teach For America Corps after graduation and learning more about how to have a positive influence in low-income communities.

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