NEVER LOOK BACK
2007 "Give a Caregiver a Break" RUNNER-UP: Janet
As a child, I had visions of joining the Peace Corps and helping people. But I married in 1972 and followed my husband's dreams. Now, 35 years later, I'm working in a cubicle and checking in daily with my mother.
On one of those calls in 2006, Mom didn't sound right and I realized she had suffered a stroke. I left my cube and never looked back, and that is the gift my Mother has given to me. It has changed how I view my future back in the work force. Now I would like to be in the healthcare field and spend my time volunteering.
There was a time when I would be annoyed with the elderly for walking too slow or for not getting out of my way because I was in a hurry and had more important things to do, But now I have developed compassion and empathy for others. I have immersed myself in my role as caregiver for my mother and taken every precaution to protect her and keep her healthy. I have padded chairs at home and in the car, and also padded the bathroom to prevent bruises. I have tied wind chimes to her walker; at night, I set it next to the bed so I can hear any movement on the baby monitor. While she is still able to get around, we take our daily laps around the house for exercise, and we try and go out daily for the mental wellbeing of both of us.
It's also challenging everyday to put her compression hose on and dress her, and to make her meals that, for the last year, had to be puréed. She loves to ride in the car with the music playing and we dance to the beat. I let her answer the phone so she will feel involved in life and stay in communication with people.
I was able to start her reading again; it was one of her passions before the stroke. We now read books about Alaska to take us far away from Florida and our confinement.
When I brush her hair, she looks in the mirror and then turns away. I wonder what she sees. Does she see the woman I remember, who was strong and independent, who outlived two spouses and survived many years on her own?
I know my difficulties and frustrations at trying to get help for my mother has led friends and family to start to talk and make decisions on not only their parents' future but that of themselves. Since I am alone in Tampa, with no family, it has been very isolating for me. I have lost contact with most of my friends over the past 16 months, since I can no longer be involved in their lives. I have missed many holidays and my nephew's graduation. To be able to have the freedom to lay in the sun, walk the mall, or take a drive would be a true escape from the day-to-day routine. Thank you.
—Janet Deckard, Dover, Florida