The transition from child to caregiver is never easy – especially when the situation involves both parents. Today we’re sharing a Q&A from Andrew - whose father, a successful lawyer, former collegiate athlete, and the family patriarch, was diagnosed with dementia in February 2014.
As the leader of their healthy, wholesome family of four, he earned the income, took care of finances, and dealt with taxes. As he became unable to do take care of such things, Andrew’s mother, who never had to take on these responsibilities, became completely overwhelmed. The stress and the slow loss of her companion of 50 years sent her into a nervous breakdown. Instead of dealing with one slowly deteriorating parent, Andrew and his sister and suddenly found themselves in a complete free fall dealing with both. While Andrew’s sister lives near their parents, Andrew is much further away, and has tried to handle everything from afar.
We spoke to Andrew about his responsibilities and challenges during his transitioning role to caregiver:
What have your caregiving responsibilities entailed?
When the bottom had completely fallen out, we needed to find them (my parents) a safe place to live. We contacted the VNA and other local caregivers (in Cleveland, Ohio) and began a search for a retirement home where the situation would be more stable. Aside from that, I've tried to take on everything that can be addressed without being local. I've taken on paying the bills, taxes, investments, and buying a car for my mother. It is challenging.
What's the most challenging part about being a caregiver?
Not knowing. You get a crash course in everything you avoided thinking about and it can be very overwhelming.
What do you think your experience would be like if you lived closer?
It seems very disruptive for my sister. She gets most of phone calls, entertains my parents and is constantly taking them both to various appointments.
How do you split up caregiving duties with your sister?
As I mentioned, I take care of anything that can be taken care of remotely and I try to get home often so that I can take some of the heat off of her.
Do you feel like you've had support/resources to turn to during this experience?
Yes and no. Many people have reached out, which is great, but there's only so much even the most caring person can do. It is good to know that others have shared similar experiences, and maybe I should try some of the groups that exist, but in a way I'm sort of afraid to know how bad things get. And there we are back to not knowing.
If you find yourself in a similar scenario, remember that there are many resources out there to help guide you. Contact your local hospital system to learn about support groups or join an online fourm to hear about others in similar situations.
If you've been through a challenge like Andrew, we'd love to hear your story. Write to us at info (at) spectrahealth (dot) us with the subject "Caregiver story" to share your experience.