Sometimes The Caregiving Journey Chooses You
By Terri Anderson
There are several ways where people find themselves as a caregiver. Some by choice, some not. I didn’t choose the caregiving life. It chose me, but God doesn’t give you anything you can’t handle. I thought to myself that I wasn’t up to the challenge, but I was. You see, my estranged father had a combination of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s and at the time, like many people, I wasn’t familiar with the disease.
My dad’s caregiver told me I “needed to see” my father. I remember him not knowing who I was and telling me that he had to “mow the grass.” As a child, my dad had the best-maintained yard in the neighborhood. His caregiver also said that he would “fight her,” and she could no longer care for him. He was placed in a nursing home and passed shortly thereafter. Knowing more about dementia now, I realize he was probably very combative. With nursing homes often short-staffed and nursing assistants overworked, I imagine they did not like caring for him.
My mom never told me that she had dementia. I figured it out from things she would do. Things like forgetting significant dates, getting lost coming home from church, or keeping the stove on with an empty tea kettle. When I realized that my mom might have the disease, I was devastated. She was everything to me. My #1 cheerleader and Best Friend. She was Educated, Beautiful, Sassy, and Sharp. She was everyone’s mom. She would help anyone who needed it, so I knew that I would do everything I could to care for her. Watching her go from a vibrant personality to a shell of her former self was heartbreaking. The worst part for me was not being able to do anything about it to make her better. Through my caregiving experience, I learned how hard caregiving was, how it affects your work life, your family life, and your health.
I’m not a writer, by any means, but writing my blog was therapeutic for me while I was going through my “Caregiving Journey.” I started www.TheCaregiversDepot.com in March 2017 as a way to document my feelings and share with others my journey caring for Mom. I shared the good, the bad, and the ugly. I look back through some of my older posts now and see how much of a dark place that I was in. I know there are many caregivers out there now in a similar place. They feel isolated and alone. I write my blog because, in my search for other caregivers like myself, there are not many African American bloggers writing on this subject, even though African-Americans are twice as likely as Caucasian people to develop Alzheimer’s disease.
I also started both Facebook and Instagram pages where, through my eyes, I share Caregiving Tips and Caregiving Truths that I’ve experienced. I have received much positive feedback from my blogs and my Instagram posts, thanking me for my work in the Alzheimer’s community.
My hope in sharing my tips and truths on social media sites (including my blog), is to convey that you’re not alone as a caregiver. If I can increase Alzheimer’s awareness by shedding more light on it, including how horrific this disease is, I’ve done my job. Now that my mom is gone, I’ve made it my life’s purpose to bring dementia and all its forms to light. Everything I do now is in my mother’s honor. She was a woman who always helped people and it’s my hope that that’s what I’m doing now.
About the Author
Terri Anderson cared for her mother, Mary, who had vascular dementia, until her passing in June 2017. The frustrations and stress that Terri faced, managing both a full-time career and part-time caregiving became the inspiration for “TheCareGiversDepot.”
Through her experiences as a family caregiver, she realized what a great opportunity it would be to share her thoughts and the struggles she faced while caring for her mom. This blog has become part of her stress relief. It serves as an outlet to write about any and everything, plus share tips on how she coped during her caregiving experience (good, bad, and the ugly). The goal of her blog is to help other caregivers plan for the different stages and learn from her trials. Both her blog and Facebook page offer a safe space for caregivers to have open dialogue, as well as sharing their struggles and tips.
Terri’s mission for TheCaregiversDepot.com is simple: spread awareness for all types of dementia, but mainly Alzheimer’s disease. She is not a healthcare professional, but like most people caring for a loved one, she learned as she went.
She believes that together, we can one day find a cure to “Fight the Memory Thief” and win.