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Kathy’s Story: Becoming Dad’s Caregiver

Gina Flores
Caregiver Advocate | Shield HealthCare
05/18/16  4:06 PM PST
Dad's caregiver

Special thanks to Kathy for sharing this touching personal story about how she became her dad’s caregiver, discovering valuable life lessons and the gift of love.

Shield HealthCare 2014 Caregiver Story Contest Finalist Story by Kathy Lofton

It was intuition, perhaps the­ parental-child connection, which prompted me to change my mind. A couple of weeks before, I asked my father to make plans to drive me to the city outskirts so I could ride-share with a co-worker to Chattanooga. However, I rescinded a few days out. Something caused me to question if he’d make the trip safely. So, I made other arrangements. Thank God, literally, for discernment.

Something did indeed happen in December 2012. Daddy was never one to voluntarily visit an ED, so I knew something was terribly wrong when I got his call that Saturday following my return. “I need you to take me to the emergency room,” he clearly said. After learning his symptoms, I automatically assumed my worst fear had occurred. Even still, he didn’t want an ambulance. He wanted me.

The ED’s attending positively confirmed my suspected diagnosis: he’d had a stroke. Daddy seemed to be doing well the first four days during his admission. Then, everything changed that Wednesday. Hemiplegia sat in on the right side of his body and his speech became completely inaudible. While the latter soon returned, his speech was still significantly affected. Seventeen days of hospitalization, four months of in-patient rehabilitation, and -130 pounds later, I was more than just his only child visiting him daily. I became his caretaker.

Daddy pleaded for me to bring him to his home. But what would we do once there? I was just as fearful and clueless as he was. I relied on blind faith as he neared discharge. Before I knew it, I was fervently making progress and had plans. I realized my heart was bigger than I thought. This was noteworthy, as my father and I had words and didn’t speak briefly some months before. Ironically, it was about his non-compliance regarding his co-morbidities.

His condition improved over time, as did the intrinsic rewards I received from caring for him after work and each weekend. Others called it great sacrifice. I thought that’s what children are supposed to do. First, the grudges we each harbored for years resulted in forgiveness. Next, all my time spent at his home strengthened our relationship. We were practically living together, and amicably, for the first time since my parents’ divorce when I was a minor. The time we lost was restored. My skill of coordinating things and exercising discipline were honed. Though stressful, I gained a sense of accomplishment from successfully resolving barriers for him and developing patience while doing so. The serendipity is that I’m also learning potential spousal and home-sharing skills. Having never been married or becoming a mom, my caretaking role is equipping me. Incidentally, the stroke caused my dad to also begin calling me “momma.” He realizes I’m his daughter, but somehow his mind perceives a deeper representation of caring and safety. He is not wrong; after all, I change his disposable briefs. In essence I’ve become a protective parent, and power of attorney, ensuring his needs are met.

The biggest rewards are my dad’s I-love-yous and thank-yous for my service. Moreover, this experience rendered the answer to a life-long prayer. We’d never attended church together at any point. Throughout all of this, we’ve been able to go at least twice. God’s ways and timing are truly mysterious. Most of all, to walk into his room in the mornings, seeing the sunrays through the blinds on his smiling face… Affirmation in the abyss.

Caregiving paradoxically yields the gifts of life, love, and lessons. What would otherwise wreck me has instead refined and remunerated me.

I am a Caregiver”  – A documentary by Kathy Lofton:

Kathy’s journey as her dad’s caregiver and the connections she made with other caregivers inspired her to make a documentary.

Shield HealthCare had the honor of interviewing Kathy at the 2016 Life Fest Film Festival, where her film was featured: An Interview with Kathy Lofton – YouTube Video


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