Nearly 40 million Americans are caregivers who provide care to adults with a disability or illness. There are many challenges that come with being a caregiver, but what many people on the outside don’t see are the gifts that come with caring for a loved one.
John Harper, host of Morning Air® spent more than a decade caring for his mother, up until her death last October. He stopped by A Closer Look™ to share his story of being a caregiver with Sheila Liaugminas.
On how he cared for his mother, John said, “I cared for her, in terms of taking care of her, for the last 10-12 years. But she was very independent. And it was only in the last couple years that the diagnosis of dementia was something that was very real and something that I had to deal with. I don’t have any siblings, I’m an only child, and so with the help of some very good doctors whatever I could feel and touch and find out, that’s how I took care of her.”
Although he cared for his mother for many years, John shared the particular challenges that come with caring for a parent with dementia or other cognitive impairment.
“I noticed something happening with more confusion in the middle of 2015,” he shared. “Now, at this point she was 93 years old, and I was just chalking it up to age. But it was getting progressively worse. I’ll never forget that it was December 22, 2015 and it was time to go to bed and she was just a different person. Saying things like, ‘Take me out of here. We’ve got to get home!’ and I panicked. I didn’t know what to do. I was able to calm her down a little bit to get her to sleep. The next morning it was like nothing had ever happened.”
John later found out that this incident was the result of a stroke his mother had suffered, which changed the dynamics of their routine and daily life. He explained, “I noticed that she was not as communicative as she once was, even though she could use a walker she was relegated mostly to a wheelchair. We had a hospital bed in our home for about two years. So it was this whole new routine that we had to get used to, and there were a lot of surprises along the way.”
“For the caregiver, every day is kind of a new chapter,” he continued. “What is happening here? You have to figure it out on your own.”
In addition to sharing the challenges that come with being a caregiver, John explained that he views it as a gift, and even now that he is no longer caring for his mother, he recognizes the gifts and skills he developed during those years that can be used to help others even now.
“It’s not an obligation, it’s a privilege and a gift,” he said. “And God helps you with some extra gifts to start thinking like a doctor, to start learning to absorb the information they are giving you, and also to either head off a potential visit to the emergency room by knowing what to do, or knowing when it is time to pull that trigger and take that person to the emergency room.”
Listen to the full conversation below: