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National Caregivers Appreciation Month 2021

A decorative image with a light green background, sketched elements of a nurse in the bottom left hand corner, an elderly person with a walker and a younger person helping them, and a person in medical scrubs caring for someone else laying in a bed in the bottom right had corner. Above, script font text reads "National Caregivers Appreciation Month 2021"

[Content Note: Today’s post deals with a topic that may cause upsetting feelings for some, specifically related to end of life care. If this is something that you need to take into consideration, no worries! Definitely feel free to give this post a miss, check out some of my other stuff, and we’ll kick it together some other time. However, if you decide to move forward, and it brings up some things for you, the people at the Hotline, and IASP are a great resource for help.]

November is a month full of recognitions, in addition to the bank and federal holidays. Today’s post is about one of the former, and that’s National Caregivers Appreciation Month 2021. Just as I mentioned with a few other recognition and observance subjects, this is one that hits very close to home for me. If you’ve been here for at least a hot minute, you’ll know why.

If you’re new here, then here’s my story in the CliffsNotes version: I ended up being my mom’s caregiver for the last two years of her life due to a smoking-related illness. It was a very long and difficult two years of my life, and for my mom too.

For me, my new role as a primary caregiver started when her illness forced her to leave work right before the pandemic started officially. We both had a feeling that the coronavirus was here in the U.S. long before March 2020 when we all went on lockdown. February for sure, probably as early as October 2019.

My mom worked in the healthcare industry, as a nurse for 50 years when a flare-up in her illness sent her home early from work. It was a flare-up that lasted longer than they had in the past, and that was it. If it wasn’t her illness, the pandemic would’ve definitely forced her out due to her age and being in a high-risk category for contracting the virus.

Not only was I thrown into the role of being a caregiver to a parent, I was also a caregiver during COVID.

My mom essentially became homebound, and I’d have to leave every single day, putting myself in harm’s way and living in fear that I’d catch the coronavirus. It didn’t matter if I was sick or whatever.

As her illness progressed, that gave way to multiple all-nighters in a row due to this blog and my day job, and the whole time, I felt like I was drowning. Keeping up with her shopping lists and anticipating her whims became a full-time job by itself. To be honest, it was literally a miracle that I ever got anything done because of all of this.

I tried to seek help a year and a half ago, and the people I reached out to made it clear they didn’t give a shyt. So I duked it all out on my own, and wrote off everyone as a non-option.

About a month after we moved, things had gotten to the point where I’d get maybe 10 minutes of sleep, if I was lucky. I quit riding my bike around that time after I fell off of it when I’d been without sleep for three days back in November of last year.

My mom went into another hospital stay in May, and as I mentioned before, the news we got was news none of us hoped for. She wasn’t coming out of this, and her illness had progressed. That’s when the home health team stepped in and intervened.

I was grateful, but at the same time, angry that it took this for anyone to give a shyt. Her care team came to the house the day she came home from the hospital, after the home health company brought a new bed over, and some other hospital things like one of those commodes, a shower chair, an oxygen concentrator, tubing, and travel oxygen.

The next few months were an endless whirlwind of home health aide daily visits, case workers, a chaplain, and other home health care team members. My goal was to make her an outlier.

We were a team. No, we are a team, and we were gonna lick this thing no matter what.

Her illness had progressed even further, and her stats held steady. She had another bout of illness from a medication, and seemed to be on the uphill swing recovering from it, when things took an unexpected and tragic turn. I wrote about this recently, and here it is as a refresher.

Being a caregiver to someone, regardless of how their illness came to be, is a difficult undertaking to say the least. There will be times where you feel so alone in all of this, and unfortunately it’s also one of those times where you learn who’s really your ride-or-die, and who isn’t.

It’s a really sad lesson in life on so many levels.

I wish I could say I had answers as to how to cope with the burden and the stress that being a caregiver can bring up. I wish I had a solution, but I don’t. Everyone’s circumstances are different. What being a caregiver looked like for me, may look different for someone else. Someone else may have access to resources I didn’t, and others may have had none.

Whatever your circumstances as a caregiver are, I want you to know that I see you. I hear you. I wish there was something I could to to take your fears, your stress, and your burdens away from you. I want you to know that you matter to me.

Over to you, readers. Are you a caregiver to someone? Have you been a caregiver in the past? How did you cope? You don’t have to reveal specifics, or even someone’s actual conditions, but I’d love to hear your thoughts and takeaways, so drop it like it’s hot below.

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