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Caregivers at Sea


I sat in the middle of the ocean with a group of caregivers. We were far from any trouble or responsibility at home. While the physical distance was great and our surroundings serene, that first day felt odd, and not at all like any of us thought a cruise vacation should feel. It was reminiscent of my teenage years when my father would leave a decision (with an obviously responsible choice) up to me with the guilt-inducing words, “You do what you think its best.”

All of the caregivers on this cruise felt the emotional tug of responsibility coming from the shore. Faces were scrunched in worry; breaths were shallow and hesitant to release at any idea of true relaxation or fun. I could almost see the wheels turning in their heads, the thoughts of “what if” streaming back and forth like a banner of bad news.

Each caregiver had a different story. We had young caregivers caring for grandparents, long distant caregivers, a couple who lived in a four-generation household, a caregiver who recently lost her mother and wondered what comes next, only children who wished they had siblings to help, and caregivers who wished they were only children.

They were all so different, but their emotional journey was so much the same. The daily demands of caring for a loved one had shaped their lives in ways they never imagined. The guilt of not doing enough, the fatigue of doing it all, the stress of making ends meet and schedules work, the isolation of being a family caregiver. It had all taken its toll.

Back on shore, lunch breaks were no longer reserved for a bite to eat with coworkers or a quick trip to the mall. Instead, lunch consisted of calls with the insurance company, trips to the pharmacy, doctor appointments, and yet another call assuring Mom you’d be home by 5:30.

The last vacation many of these caregivers remembered date back to the Reagan administration, but they would tell you a trip to the grocery store alone was almost as good.

Conversations over dinner on the ship allowed caregivers to realize how similar their stories were, that they really weren’t all alone. Excursions with dolphins, zip lines, sugar cane and rum infused their souls with a much deserved sense of liveliness. Spa treatments melted away the stress and finally let the caregivers receive some needed care themselves. And they could eat lunch with a friend without any outside demands.

Smiles began to appear, shoulders began to relax, and spirits began to soar.

When we finally said our goodbyes, there was so much hope in their voices and hugs. They looked like a new group of people. They were brighter, lighter, and even somehow seemed a little taller. I reminded them to schedule their next vacation before a new president takes the oath of office, and that if picking out fruits and vegetables starts to feel like a vacation, they should immediately call a travel agent or at the very least, book a massage.

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Thoughts and stories from others
  1. August 4, 2013 at 8:37 pm | Posted by Victoria Church

    According to your cruise rules, in order to enter, you have to be a caregiver of someone 65 or older. Have you not heard of FTD (early onset dementia)? What a slap in the face for all those who care for loved ones with this tragic, younger onset disease, especially from a business like yours. I'm disappointed. Not because I can't win a cruise, but by the implied lack of education about caregivers and their loved ones. Sincerely, Victoria (Vicki) Church


  2. August 4, 2013 at 7:49 am | Posted by Donna Zimmerman

    I care for my 93 yr old mother in law,she has lived with us for 3 yrs now. Although he has a sister she does not visit much and her children do not help at all either. We also have a totally dependant handicapped daughter,she is 32 that is in a wheelchair and requires all her daily needs met by u, feeding,dressing,bathing,etc... while she does go to a day program I still have mother in law at home everyday ,she is in end stages of dementia. Since I am caregiver,and I am sure I will have others see this in their own situation ,I am the one who gets all her wrath! I have become "that one out there in the kitchen", "her" , "she" ...never called by my name and always blamed for everything that happens or gets done . It's very frustrating.....I sure could use a vacation!!!!!!!!!


  3. July 31, 2013 at 11:33 am | Posted by Cara Cripe

    I cared for my father before he passed eight years ago, and then I have had mother ever since. We live in the middle of no where in Murphy NC Mountains, I have squirrels and turkeys to talk to when I get to the point I need to talk to someone, My sisters here too, but she's in the medical field and rarely available, but is a great help when she is! I'm the 24/7 caregiver, housekeeper, cook, maid ,companion, etc. , Last fall, she took a nasty fall and broke her back, pelvis and elbow, after the hospital I've done all of her care thru the ups and downs, got her to a point where she was more able to walk again with a walker and she tumbled and broke some ribs, so back to square one, and now I think we're over the hump and just need to work on her strength. During all of this I've also had some health issues that I've just had to put on the back burner because its takes me forever to get to the nearest VAMC for my care, and I'd have to pay someone to care for mom, I only have one gal available and that's if she is! My trips to town are exactly as you know, shopping bank and rushing back. My days are full but so rewarding when I get moms smile and a gentle hand on my shoulder. I sum this up by saying I know there's millions of us out there, hiding in the woods and cities alike, we all have the same goal, care.


  4. July 29, 2013 at 12:48 am | Posted by Charles Linhart

    Assuming I would be so lucky as to join you folks on this cruise, may I assume that if my wife is well enough, she can come with me. We could both use the break.


  5. June 13, 2013 at 2:46 pm | Posted by Leeanne Richardson

    I can relate to the comment about mundane things feeling like vacation when you are a caregiver. I find myself feeling that when on a trip to the grocery store by myself or doing the laundry at a laundromat because right now I don't have a working set at home. I also work full-time outside of the home and help watch my grandchildren on alternate Sundays while their mom works as nurse on 12 hour shifts. I really feel like I have two full time jobs, with a part-time job on the side - but only one has a paycheck with it.


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