It will be a different kind of Thanksgiving celebration this year for many families. Smaller gatherings, not getting to hug elder loved ones, some spending the holiday in isolation.
I hope by this time next year, we will largely have put the coronavirus epidemic behind us. Having spent almost the entire year in its grips, we must be resilient for the next few months as vaccines become available. I know many are understandably exhausted, but there does appear to be a light at the end of this tunnel.
There are many things to be grateful for this year.
I am grateful to the healthcare workers, from the ICU nurses to nursing home staff to home health aides, who put their lives on the line each and every day to take care of the rest of us. That is an awe-inspiring sacrifice. (To the thousands who lost their lives to COVID-19 while caring for others, I express my gratitude to their grieving families.)
I am grateful to all of the frontline workers, from grocery store clerks to transit employees to those in food production and utilities. They kept the rest of us who were isolating at home up and running, so we could continue doing our jobs and taking care of our families.
Of course I want to give thanks to the family caregivers. The stress and anguish they have gone through this year is devastating. I’ve read so many heartbreaking accounts of families not being able to visit loved ones in nursing homes because of lockdowns. Watching their loved ones physically and mentally decline via Zoom or standing outside, separated by a glass door or window is something no one should ever experience. Many families couldn’t even be with their loved ones as they died. For those caring for vulnerable family members at home, every sniffle put one on high alert. Trying to keep loved ones at home healthy, comfortable and entertained while reducing their risk of infection is a monumental task. Many caregiver resources have been limited or shut down due to the pandemic, leaving families to fend for themselves.
This Thanksgiving, I hope you are able to find some joy and comfort, even if your celebration has to be altered due to the pandemic. As a token of gratitude, I am participating in a book giveaway. Both The Reluctant Caregiver and CBD for Caregivers are available for free.
It was an emotionally exhausting week to be a journalist, with the mass shooting in Orlando yet another example of America at its worst. But as always is the case in these national tragedies, stories emerge that show America at its best: brave, compassionate, able to put aside differences to help others in need.
A father in Seattle talking to his 8-year-old daughter about the Orlando incident was surprised when she innocently asked, “Do the fathers still get a Father’s Day card?”
That spurred a project where 49 Father’s Day cards were created for each father of a victim in the Orlando shooting. The city got involved and over 300 people signed the cards.
It’s a difficult Father’s Day for too many families struck by senseless tragedies.
It’s a heartbreaking Father’s Day for those who have recently lost their fathers.
It’s a bittersweet Father’s Day for those with fathers who have Alzheimer’s disease.
But somehow, somewhere, we have to dig deep and be grateful for what we do have. So I am grateful for a father who has been freed from the prison of Alzheimer’s, who loved me and was proud of me and for all of the old photos and mementos I have of his life that I will treasure forever.
If you celebrate Father’s Day, I hope you are marking the day in a way that is meaningful for you.
Today has been the day I have been eyeing on the calendar for quite some time. My mother died one year ago today.
It is hard for me to believe one year has passed since that moment that I dreaded so much, yet brought some peace and stability back to my life. I didn’t want my mother to die too soon, but even more so, I didn’t want her to suffer.
But today is not about mourning. I have done enough of that over the past year, and rightfully so. Today I decided to make about gratitude.
As I’ve mentioned previously, my mom always showered kindness and appreciation on those she encountered in her daily life, from the convenience store clerk to the shuttle driver to her doctor. But it was those in the service industry, those who are often overlooked or taken for granted, that my mother really connected with. Sure, sometimes I would internally roll my eyes when Mom would talk my ear off about how the her favorite convenience store clerk was having surgery on her knee and a granddaughter on the way.
But it floored me that when Mom was in the hospital recovering from surgery, not only would she remember the CNA’s name, but her granddaughter’s name as well and that the kid was going to be in a spelling bee. I couldn’t even remember the nursing assistant’s name!
So today, I visited local businesses in my community and handed out thank you cards. For whatever reason, I felt a little silly, but when I saw the smiles light up the faces of the employees, I felt good. I think Mom would be proud that her daughter is carrying on her torch of goodwill.
It’s still a work in progress, but here is a link to the scrapbook I started for my mother.
Recently, I visited my mom. It was the first time I would be meeting her personal caregiver. I’ll call her Debbie (not her real name.) Mom had raved about how wonderful Debbie was and how much she liked her.
We’ve all heard horror stories about the other kind of caregivers, those who steal from clients or abuse them. I was relieved that Mom was happy with her caregiver. I think the service has lifted her spirits and helped take the burden off of her when it comes to housekeeping and grocery shopping. In short, personal attendants can help my mom live independently longer.
Debbie made me comfortable immediately. She is warm and kind and doesn’t let Mom get down on herself. But she also isn’t fake in her positive thinking, instead she is encouraging. She is an ideal match with my mom, who is set in her ways and finds changes in routine stressful. Debbie knows how to keep my mom on the right track.
I thought the least I could do was get Debbie a thank you card, to let her know I appreciated her taking good care of my mom. Apparently it’s a struggle to keep gas in the car on her wages, and she doesn’t get reimbursed for mileage. She was one of the few people who was almost looking forward to jury duty, because it would pay the same/better than what she earns normally!
So I gave Debbie the card and she told my mom later that she was so touched that she cried after reading it.
Caregiving is a job where you may not receive much thanks or positive feedback. Showing a bit of appreciation can go a long way.
I want to kick off 2014 with a show of gratitude for my fellow bloggers who are family caregivers. It is a tough road to travel but all of you sharing your personal joys and struggles have made me more enlightened.
I know 2013 was a rough year for many of you. Jackie, who writes the “Quilt of Missing Memories” blog just lost her husband, who had early-onset Alzheimer’s. I know how difficult it is to lose a loved one so close to the holidays. She writes so beautifully and heartfelt about her family’s journey with this terrible disease. Her perspective challenges me to have a more positive outlook even in the face of adversity.
Kay who writes the Dealing with Dementia blog is a caregiver for both of her parents who suffer from dementia. She lost her father suddenly this year. She has had to grapple with her own grief while trying to support her mother who is struggling with her declining mental state in the assisted living facility. Kay offers great insight into dementia and caregiving and stays on tops of trends and studies that can aid us as dementia caregivers.
Terry, who writes so faithfully on her “terry1954” blog provides loving home care for her brother Al, who suffers from Multiple System Atrophy. Al’s health declined in 2013, and it appears his time in this world may be drawing to a close. Through it all, Terry has been the loyal and loving sister, who doesn’t shy away from discussing how difficult being a family caregiver is, both physically and emotionally. She has developed a loyal and supportive blog readership that is so well-deserved. I admire her strength and courage.
I virtually cheered Jack from Across the Land 2013 who ran across the country in 2013 to raise awareness for Alzheimer’s. He dealt quite well with extreme weather and other obstacles with his plucky, positive attitude.
I follow so many wonderful bloggers that I simply cannot list them all here.I just wanted to mention a few who particularly inspired me or moved me over the last year. Thank you for sharing your personal journeys online. We can learn so much from those we may never meet in person.