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One Moment Does Not Make a Journey

 

I remember the first time I saw my father in pain – real, physical, call-for-help pain. He was working on finishing the basement when he threw out his back, and I was the only one there to help.

As he lay on the floor writhing in pain, I just stood there staring at him feeling completely helpless. It was as if my feet were glued to the floor and my mind was a scratched record repeating, “What do I do? What do I do?”

Eventually, my dad recovered, but I was left wondering if this was a demonstration of my aptitude to be a caregiver. A measly five minutes (which felt like five hours) of panic was enough to rock my confidence to its core.

Would I always turn to jelly in a time of crisis? Would I be able to make the right decisions and act quickly when needed? At the time, I was certain my father immediately changed any plans he had of me caring for him as he aged. I felt like a complete failure.

But as it tends to happen in life, more opportunities came my way to see what I was really made of. Between motherhood and other crisis moments throughout the years, my confidence slowly came back.  I knew the right questions to ask, when to stay calm and when to act quickly. I knew I could do this even with the inevitable bumps in the road. I knew that one moment of failure would not define me.

I was no longer afraid that I would be a poor excuse for a caregiver.

Looking back, I realize that seeing my dad – the person who was my protector and seemingly the strongest man I knew – needing help was rightfully a frightening situation. It was the first time I realized that my dad wasn't invincible and that someday he wouldn’t be here.

As those who cared for us for so many years begin the transition to the ones who need care, our whole world changes; the way we think changes. Everything changes. Sometimes it’s a slow process, and other times the baton is passed to us faster than what could ever be thought of as fair.

Regardless of how quickly we become the one giving care, it is okay to be afraid. It’s okay to be sad and unsure at times, to question if what we are doing is the right thing. We have to take those moments of feeling stuck to the floor when our thoughts sound like a broken record player; it’s a part of this journey. But we cannot forget to make time for those moments when we are the caregiver rock star; the times when we do something we didn’t think we could. We have to make time for the good and celebrate the little victories along the way. We have to remember that one moment will never define us; rather it is our entire journey that ultimately makes the destination what it is.

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Thoughts and stories from others
  1. May 30, 2012 at 12:18 pm | Posted by jan hargraves

    An overlooked piece of information that may be required in an emergency: Give your contact person the passcode and disarm code for your home security system. I was contacted this week by my sister's security company, and told her alarm was on and they could not reach her, and that ER had been called earlier in the day. Because I did not have a passcode, they could give me no other info, nor could they disarm the system when I got to her home to check. Fortunately, she was taken to the hospital in time, but I had to call all over to find where she was. Had I had the passcode, the security company could have given me additional valuable info.

    Reply

    • June 1, 2012 at 3:32 pm | Posted by Cat Koehler

      That is a great piece of advice! It's these little things that can sometimes be a big deal! Thanks, Jan!

      Reply

  2. May 25, 2012 at 7:22 pm | Posted by jessie.brumbach@gmail.com

    What a beautiful story, I am just getting there myself. The other day my aunt saw me at target and told me my mom is depressed, she was "secretly filling me in" as if I needed to run over and save my mom. My response was, well she is 84. I could tell that my aunt wanted more, she thought i was a bit callous. What I really meant was, that is part of the journey. I can't change that my mom is getting older, I can't be with her every minute, but it doesn't mean I don't care. Acceptance is part of the journey; sometimes the biggest mountain to climb for many

    Reply

    • May 29, 2012 at 2:20 pm | Posted by Cat Koehler

      It is important to recognize what we can and cannot change. Kudos to you, Jessie, for seeing that. I am sure with the many highs and lows of this journey that in the end we will be better for having gone through it.

      Reply

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