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Caregiver Endurance Runs

My 90-year old mom fell again in the middle of the night, all part of her horrific decline. Last February she broke her hip, lost interest in food and placed in hospice care. Once a vibrant woman with plenty of gusto, her demeanor has dramatically changed over the years due to her dementia. She now resides in a dementia unit 1000 miles away. I was once totally responsible for Mom’s care but she moved back to her home state of Illinois 3 years ago. My sister and brother-in-law are the only ones who visit her on a regular basis.

Connie and I had a heart-to-heart today over the horrific ravages of brain deterioration. I had just visited my husband who also resides in a dementia unit. Together, our hearts were heavy over the demise of two vibrant loved ones whose lives have been suspended for years in a cruel dimension which can only be entered by them.

This experience wreaks torment upon all who must bear continuing witness of such suffering. Anyone who’s been a caregiver knows what a heartbreaker it is to witness the physical, mental and emotional decline of a loved one. Confusion, frustration, guilt, resentment,exhaustion, anguish, emotional depletion, it’s all part of the mix.

With Mom’s dementia, we never know if she’ll know who we are whenever we call or visit. When I visited her in February she didn’t recognize me. All she did was let out agonizing moans and screams as I nestled her head around my arms. One phone call she only spoke gibberish. Yesterday morning she was laughing with me on the phone and seemed in good spirits. I told her Connie was coming the next day. By this afternoon Mom didn’t recognize Connie and even worse, was flailing and combative.

This is the cruelest of declines when the woman you could always count is no longer there; instead a stranger now occupies a bed labeled with our mother’s name. Mom was a peacekeeper. She’d do everything within her power to keep everyone in harmony, and a shining inspiration for me in writing, Get Along with Anyone, Anytime, Anywhere, who modeled love and understanding. I wrote about her in another book, Dancing through Life with Guts, Grace & Gusto for demonstrating spunk well into her 80’s. 

Connie and I are sisters of the heart and know we’re not alone with millions  experiencing their own losses of untold sorrow. For all who are enduring a similar siege on their spirits, gather strength from others. When your heart is heavy, share your sorrow. Give voice to the pain and loss but don’t get lost in the drain. Monitor your heart and do what you need to sustain yourself.

Take time for you which may be difficult when squeezed with so many responsibilities. Sustain your spirits by doing something you love which brings you joy. Dance. Paint. Write. Connect. Create. Pray. Let go. Find your strength through this endurance run of the heart. Make time for celebrations in your own life. Feel the joy of life. Keep your heart open and grateful for the many capabilities you have now and allow them expression.

The featured photo is one of those treasured times of connection to celebrate our sisterhood. We have always been grateful for our mutual, relentless support. The teahouse even provided the hats for a full-fledged high tea experience. It was a memorable, civilized slice of time for sharing.

One of the lessons learned from this journey is the absolute value of celebrating the gifts of friendship, support and caring, especially needed when you're constantly juggling all the responsibilities of being a caregiver. They work wonders for uplifting spirits.

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