No regrets about caregiving

AmberandGrandmotherI used to think I understood what this caregiving thing was all about. But then I started working at Easter Seals.

Since starting here last summer, I’ve learned that caregivers are not just medical professionals at your local hospitals and nursing homes. They come in many forms, and in fact, there is no cookie-cutter mold for today’s caregiver. After taking a closer look at my own story, I realized that I’d been a caregiver myself several years ago.

My maternal grandmother, Irene, was an amazing woman. She raised 10 children, owned her own beauty salon, and eventually opened a home day care. Towards the end of her life she suffered a stroke, and then a heart attack, and was also diagnosed with breast cancer. She survived all of that, but things began to change — and change quickly — in 2006, when she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. My grandmother went from being this invincible woman to someone who needed her family’s support more than ever.

I was right in the middle of my sophomore year in college when I learned of my grandmother’s condition, and I made the decision to be there to assist my mother with my grandmother’s needs in any way possible. Family has always been my number one priority, and I made trips to Chicago on weekends and during holiday breaks to help my mother in any way I could — going to doctor appointments, helping with transportation, doing laundry, and so on.

And yes, like many people who have loved ones with Alzheimer’s, I didn’t mind answering the same questions over and over again. I didn’t take it personally when my grandmother no longer remembered my name. She was happy to see me because she knew I was someone who cared for her, and that’s all that mattered to me.

My grandmother died in 2010. It was a day I knew would come eventually — after all, it’s all a part of the process, right? That’s why I did all I could to be there to care for her whenever possible, because she had always done so much for me and my family.

Now, I have my memories, but most importantly, I have no regrets.


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