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Caregiving Daughter Inspired To Become A Social Worker

Gina Flores
Caregiver Advocate | Shield HealthCare
04/05/12  11:28 PM PST

Caregiver Story Spotlight | Shield HealthCare “What Makes Caregiving Rewarding?” 2008 Contest Winner

Social worker, Liana G. warmed our hearts with her beautiful caregiving story of her journey through her mom’s stroke recovery.  

“It was the Spring of 2004 when we heard the horrible news: “Your mother has suffered a major stroke as a complication of her surgery.” We had known there would be risks. Brain surgery is something that even the most optimistic can’t help but take pause. But a stroke…as the reality sunk in, I became numb. Then, the questions began to tumble through my brain. Why? Why now? What went wrong? She’s too young for this! I’m too young! She was supposed to get better! To be honest, those thoughts have never completely gone away. I know now that the mindset of a caregiver is unique amongst all others. Suddenly it was no longer about me, but about what I could do to help her. The questions kept coming. What education did I need? What changes would we have to make at home? What were her care needs? What if I made a mistake? Ever so slowly, I learned how to seek and find answers to my questions. When my mother opened her eyes for the first time the next day, she looked at me as though she were staring at a stranger. We couldn’t understand a word she said as she was very aphasic. But as time went on, we caught a word here and there, then a phrase, then a sentence. Little by little, the answers to my questions would evolve with the small accomplishments of the day. I learned to adapt, I learned patience and I felt joy. I nearly cried the day I got her to take a bite out of her favorite Arby’s roast beef sandwich!

As it would happen, I was in college and about to end the school year for summer break. I had planned to get a job to help make ends meet, but this was so much more important. I took the summer off and I was there every day, managing medication, giving injections, dressing her and applying her makeup (that had always been important to her). I shopped and took her to medical appointments and did home therapy. We counted change together, learned how to use the telephone, how to tell time, the difference between shampoo and conditioner. It’s amazing how much we take for granted, we in our warm little cocoons of ignorance. I learned gratitude for the things I have. Today I can safely say that my mother is continuing to make a wonderful, even miraculous recovery, and as for me, I was inspired to enter the field of medical social work. I’ve since obtained a master’s degree and my graduate research study was dedicated to my mother. I now work in a large hospital helping families to answer those very same questions about caregiving and coping that I had from day one. The skills that I acquired through caregiving and the lessons I learned are put to use everyday. And along with my loving family, I continue to help my mother with her needs.

The most rewarding part of being a caregiver is the change it has made in me. I was blessed with the opportunity to touch a life, to give of myself and I am able to bring that helping spirit to now touch others. I wish I could say that I end each day with that warm, fuzzy feeling. I don’t. I wish I could say I’m able to give, give, give without time for myself and find my complete contentment in the work that I do. I can’t. But what I can say, beyond a shadow of a doubt, is that I have loved. Love is a choice. And by the Master’s design, it is meant to be expressed to all. So I will continue to love, to hope, to live and to reach out to whoever might be reaching back.”

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