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Your Life Is Important Too

Author: Terry Lynch

In 1985 I became my mother’s caregiver. Leila Lynch, a Racine resident for most of her adult life, and retired teacher, had done well until her late 70s. Then rapid memory loss and injuries related to osteoporosis stole her ability to manage everyday life. I decided to move back to Racine from Washington, DC where I was working with the federal government.

We were housemates for the next 10 years, with support from state programs that enabled us to bring invaluable assistance into our home - from a homecare agency and self-employed personal care workers. I was able to work as a part-time consultant. My mother passed away in 1995.

At first, my mother’s healthcare crises dominated our lives. But life improved as I became a better advocate. We began bringing help into our home and I learned some additional keys to taking care of myself - keys that benefited us both.

Of course, exercise, a good diet and sleep were essential. I also learned that caregivers must focus on protecting emotional well-being. 

In addition to getting help with caregiving:

  • Find someone you can talk to about all of your emotions both positive and negative.
  • Look for the positives. Being negative can become a way of life. 
  • Find something to look forward to every day. I found that even watching a favourite sitcom after I helped my mother to bed made a difference.
  • Don't obsess over what you can't change.
  • Don't try to deal with everything at once.
  • Get out of the house. When it seems that you must do as much as you can as fast as you can, even an hour away can feel like a vacation.
  • Ask for help and accept it when it’s offered. Pride can be destructive.
  • Get help for depression. Please! You may be so overloaded that hopelessness, acute anxiety, constant sadness or other symptoms may seem ‘normal’. Family physicians treat many patients for this illness.
  • Go easy on yourself. You are not going to please everyone, get everything done, do everything ‘right’ or be cheerful all of the time. . Don’t let guilt ruin your life.
  • Have compassion for the person you are caring for. Putting myself in my mother’s place benefitted us both.
  • Find the best possible medical care. When we did, my mother’s health and mobility both improved.
  • How about a furry friend? My mother and I shared our home with an affectionate tabby cat that brightened our world even in the most difficult times.
  • Join a family caregiver support group if at all possible. Your Ageing and Disability Resource Centre can help you do this. It can change your life. 

Terry is a specialist on Empowered Ageing at Connections, a Wisconsin Self-Determination Support Agency. You can read more from Terry in his excellent book But I Don't Want Eldercare! here.

The publisher is the Centre for Welfare Reform.

Your Life Is Important Too © Terry Lynch 2018.

All Rights Reserved. No part of this paper may be reproduced in any form without permission from the publisher except for the quotation of brief passages in reviews.