21st Annual Caregiver Story Contest Runner-up – Joseph G.

04/22/24  2:58 PM PST
21st annual caregiver contest win $1000

Congratulations to Runner-up Joseph G. from Colorado.

When I was a young child, my mother made me promise to never put her in a nursing home. We were hearing horror stories of people being abused and neglected by staff while being at an assisted living facility all the time. It was the early 90’s, right after the 1987 Nursing Home Reform Act went into effect, and although the number of deficiencies started to decline afterwards, there were still horror stories being shared by people who had lived through it.

The promise my mother asked us to make has always stuck with me, even through my early adult years, when the relationship between my mother and I became strained. There was a transition period in my life where I noticed my mother outside of a mothering role and began to see her as the person she actually was. This caused conflict to the extent of several years passing by without us speaking to one another. That all changed the day I received a phone call from an ex stating my mother had suffered a stroke. Without hesitation, I went to go see her at our childhood home. She lived in the house where both my twin brother and I had grown up, and my brother was still occupying the house alongside her. One would think that she would be in good hands with one of her sons by her side, however, that was sadly not the case. My brother suffers from alcoholism and over the years it has turned him into a monster. Over the course of several years of not communicating, I was unaware of the fact that my brother had my mother living in a domestic violence situation, and she suffered the stroke partially due to the stress she had to endure. Since suffering the stroke, her health was steadily declining, from having end stage renal disease to congestive heart failure to type 2 diabetes. I knew something had to be done and I also knew that I would have to be the one who put his feelings aside if any attempt at a reconciliation was possible. So, I put on my big boy pants and offered to live at the house with them to assist with anything my mother might need while she deals with her health issues. This turned into the early stages of caregiving full-time for my mother. Over the last 2 1/2 years I have spent every day with her, in and out of hospitals, emergency room visits, countless surgeries and rehabilitation centers. A pivotal moment during my journey as a caregiver has arrived just recently, as my mother’s health continues to decline, and more complications arise. I have reached the phase where I need to decide whether I am fully capable of providing the care she needs on my own going forward. Contemplating what would be the best course of action, one that meets her needs and excludes my own, is a very daunting and difficult thing to do.

When you ask how caregiving inspires me, I would start with what it has taught me about myself along the way. Caregiving forced me in the most unexpected way to look beyond myself and realize that love is unselfishly choosing for another’s highest good. Caregiving has opened my eyes when it comes to learning how to forgive people who have hurt you and learning the art of letting go. More importantly, caregiving has reaffirmed that nothing else in life really matters except the way you love and whether you gave enough of that love to the world around you. Having the opportunity to make a difference in someone else’s life is a reward in itself. In my case, I have had the honor of caring for a person who once cared for me when I was unable to care for myself. There is no better way to say thank you for the protection, the sense of security and the unconditional love than to reciprocate to the same person who gave it to you at a time when it is needed the most.

I will end with one of my favorite quotes about caregiving by Ram Dass…

‘In the end, we are all just walking each other home.’

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