To all the caregivers and those who will become a caregiver, showing love for a parent in need can be most rewarding and the most important job you will ever do in your life. The role of a caregiver will be one of the hardest and most challenging times in your life. It will consume your days with important details to properly care for your loved one.
I spent 12 years being a caregiver for my mom and the last 6 years with my dad who had dementia and was in a memory care facility. Taking care of one person is a lot of work, but two parents was over the top exhausting. I was not given a heads up or a book with information to teach me how to be a caregiver. I learned on the fly with each decision placed in front of me. I would drive my mom to physical therapy, doctor appointments, hair salon appointments, and everything else in between. I never envisioned my caregiving journey would last 12 years but it did and I jumped in with both feet and helped where I’m needed. Little did I know that more would be placed on my shoulders and more love needed to be given.
Love is not only what we say, but also what we do. I showed love for my mom by washing her hair, fling her toenails, cooking dinner, washing her clothes, sponge baths (when she could no longer get into a shower), applying lotion to her arms and legs, wrapping legs in ace bandages, completing a puzzle together, helping toilet her using a bathroom commode and emptying it each time she went to the bathroom and getting her dressed from the waist down. The time spent caring for my mom involved a huge sacrifice on my part. My life was on hold and I did not know when I would ever get my personal life back.
Showing love for my dad love was visiting him every day at the memory care facility. I would visit my dad at the same time every day bringing the newspaper, and watching the stock market together. He taught me what each ticker meant on the bottom of the TV screen. I would bring him dental floss, Glucerna Shakes, Kleenex, file his fingernails and toes, apply lotion on his legs and arms, and bring a new toothbrush and toothbrush holder each week. I was very protective of my dad in memory care and his health was my biggest concern. My heart ached because I could not manage his personal care at home because he needed professional help. As hard as those visits were, I never let him see me cry, and I would fall apart on my way to my car and every time I drove for an errand and back home again. Love is what kept me going. I had to continue my visits with my dad and still help mom at home with her personal care too.
There will be times when showing love may not be easy like cleaning up a bathroom when a parent has had an accident before they can get to the toilet. If you get mad and frustrated it’s okay and just remember to keep going. When you look back on your caregiving time I hope you can say, “I don’t have any regrets” and “It was my pleasure.” God can use you in ways you never expected or planned for, but try to show love in the little things. Looking back, I realize that God had me right where I was supposed to be helping mom and dad because they took care of me as a child. To show love to your parents in need will never be a regret, and you will be able to put your head on the pillow at night knowing that you did EVERYTHING for them while they were alive. (This will help you when they are gone one day and will give you peace in the grief process.)
There are hundreds of way to show love in the caregiving process, some will come to you and other times you will have to go out of your way to do something you don’t want to do. You are doing God’s work and he’s got a plan for your life. Do it with love and you won’t ever have to regret your time spent with your parents when they are gone.
I was not the best participant in this caregiving process and got upset at God many times. I had a plan for my life and it did not involve years of taking care of my parents. But when the doors kept closing off other things in my life, caregiving had to continue. It took me years to finally accept that this is where God has placed me and I have to just keep going. To take care of a parent is not easy but just remember, “Do the next thing” and try not to think too far ahead (hard for me to say since I worry a lot).
Find those hundred ways to show love for your parents as they age and you will make memories to last a lifetime.