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Caregiver Contest Grand Prize Winner Linda: Live Bravely

Aimee Sharp
Author | Shield HealthCare
04/03/19  11:04 AM PST
Live Bravely

Linda S. is from Phelan, CA. Linda provided the following biography: “Linda is the wife of John for 37 years, mother and step-mother of twins (one adult son who lives close-by in Southern California, an adult step-son who passed away by accidental drowning, and step-daughter who lives in Utah). She is now a proud grandmother of eight, and enjoys outings such as movies, and doing things with her grandchildren who live locally, especially gardening where a child can learn so much about life. Her hobbies are gardening, animals, art, and writing and she created a children’s book in 1996 titled Easterland. Other than hobbies she has enjoyed a multitude of adventures in the work-force that spans over 50 years choosing careers that helped people in one way or another that include fields in insurance, medical office, insurance billing, industrial nurse, hotel restaurant management, advertising executive, real estate, and lastly full-time caregiver.”When contacted to let her know she was the winner, Linda responded with: “Thank you for letting me know. I am honored to be your recipient of the prize offered and hope it is able to help many in the future.”

What tips do you have for care at home?

Live Bravely

It was the hardest thing I ever had to do, I told her, and added with a bit of admiration in my voice … and that is what you are doing now.

“I have no one to help me at all.”  She wasn’t complaining but venting to me, and I was glad to be there for her that day.

I had taken care of my mother to the point of moving in with her – eventually turning my life and my home over to my family.  My own home needed someone to maintain it, and this is what love does, taking care of mom was a family feat.

I knew exactly what my friend meant because in reality there is no one who can really care for a parent like an adult child who knows their story.  But, it got very difficult when mom developed Alzheimer’s and thought other people were around, I couldn’t even leave the house.  It was then I learned hospice could be called in even if the person isn’t terminal, and that was the best thing I ever did for myself.

Mom’s surviving cancer and living into her mid 90’s was also her late-in-life challenge, she developed adhesions and had constant diarrhea; with the portable potty chair by her bed I witnessed her struggling daily in the course of the day five or six times when just getting out of bed was an effort for her let alone to stand up clean herself.

Her food now needed to be pureed due to swallowing issues (there is a test for that), but in those last days the stories she shared of her childhood were priceless. They were one’s I never had a clue about or heard of before. I learned to use a gate-belt and learned to engage in her fantasy world rather than explain things anymore. Sometimes, it worked to my advantage.

I learned it wasn’t easy to be a caregiver, but more than that I learned it was not easy to grow old; making it even harder to watch someone decline in their last days.  Toward the end, she needed more care than I could give, but I oversaw her care at the caring facility we had used for her before, so she was familiar with the people and surroundings.  With Alzheimer’s, a person doesn’t forget everything, and that can be the confusing part of dealing with the illness.

She seemed to pull away from me as she lay dying.   I looked for help
feeling she might be mad at me, but then I found an article and read on the hospice site that was normal for a person in these stages of life to do. It was comforting.

Mom was a singer and band leader in the big band era, so I got Spotify and played the music she loved all her life and set it by her head. One precious moment she raised her hand as if to direct an orchestra and smiled.  Her room-mate was as touched as I was at the gesture. Hopefully it gave her some comfort.

Now, I can look back with not an entirely clear conscience as I did have her moved to a care facility at the end, but only for her best interest as she really needed more care than one person could give.

She was always an active person and did not slow down easily.

It is a hard thing becoming parent to the one who was your protector and god-like parent in life. You realize it is the circle you are in and that one by one we all take our turns.

Try to do as good as you can for your loved one.   You will find strength and become astonished at where love for this person takes you, how much you have inside you and how you can extend yourself.

How much you give of yourself and what you have to offer this person will be amazing to you, until you can give no more.

Recently I was asked what my favorite quote is; I instantly replied “a man has got to know his/her limitations.” And I knew what that means in its entirety after caring for my mother. I reflected on this journey and now know that death comes for us all, so look death straight on, like my mother did in her final days, and don’t revisit it until it comes for you.

Mostly, live. And live bravely.

Click here to head to the contest home page and read more advice.

Winners were selected by a panel of independent judges: Maggie Bermudez, the Manager of Professional Training and Healthcare Services at Alzheimer’s Los Angeles; Alethea Mshar, a blogger, mom of two children with Down syndrome and a frequent contributor to Shield HealthCare’s GROW community; and Joy Hooper, a Wound Ostomy Continence Nurse and the lead instructor of the Wound Care Education Institute’s ostomy courses. Click here to learn more.


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