Did you know that November is National Family Caregivers Month? I have found that one of the hardest parts of getting older, is seeing people you looked up to grow older. You realize just how short and precious life is and aging parents, relatives, even neighbors put us in the position of being a caretaker to people who took care of us.
My mother died unexpectedly several years ago and left my father behind who had battled colon cancer and was much more frail than she. Add to that they were married over 60 years and you can understand how heartbreaking it was to my father. My mother and all of us had always assumed my father would pass first, but when the reality hit, it was so hard. I was extremely close to my parents and so were my older children. We lived houses from one another and I would often do their grocery shopping and drive them to appointments etc. We knew my father was so lost without my mom and I truly think if it wasn’t for my kids and I being so close and there for him, he would not even have survived a week without her. You do hear that many spouses together for so many years tend to die within a year of each other and my father passed 1 day shy of 365 days after my mother.
It was like he hung on as long as he could, but could not go that year. In those 364 days, I had a new role and that was as a caretaker for my Dad. Like I said he was heartbroken without my mom and so we would go out to dinner, I would shop for him, my family and I shared almost all meals with him and spent a lot of time with him. Losing a parent and losing both parents really changes the dynamic in your life. Many people just don’t understand until they are there but it cuts a buffer out. When you are a child you see your parents there, you see your friend’s parents and your aunts and uncles and grandparents if you are lucky enough to have them in your life and it creates a secure feeling. Death does not seem imminent, you rationalize your parents are still here and life seems like it will last forever. When your parents pass it’s a very different feeling and suddenly the buffer is gone, you are the next generation and you kind of feel “next”. It can make even a young person feel like they only have a short time left on this earth and it’s what I struggle with daily.
Many people say, “Oh you are so young, you have a young family, how could you feel like that?” It’s something they don’t understand. I have digressed though and much of this starts when our roles change and we become the caretakers of a parent. It’s a very emotional thing because you are now seeing your parent become weak, not able to do things they used to and it hurts deeply. It throws you into a sense of reality and it’s stressful. It can help to talk to someone who knows, someone who can guide you and validate your feelings. Many do not have that support in their lives and can feel alone. There are so many that are caretakers for others and they deserve support and someone to reach out and say that they’re doing a great job and express gratitude. Whether it’s your parent, relative or if you take care of others as a profession, those messages and support can mean so much. Now it’s even easier to show that support to caretakers.
ThanksProject.org was started by AARP with the Ad Council and it is a public message board where you can show your support and appreciation for caregivers. The messages are posted along other supportive messages from people across the country to illustrate the number of caregivers nationwide. AARP and the Ad Council also have a Caregiving Resource Center that you can access HERE! If you know a caregiver, take a moment to send them a message of thanks and encouragement on ThanksProject.org. You may also want to let them know about the Caregiver Resource Center that they can access from the website. Your message may be just what that person needs to hear today!