Northwoods Journal: July 11, 2022

My senior assisted living community has gone down by two – a whole 50%. I still have the husband and Mom to help but my uncle and aunt, both in their 90’s, have gone south to live near my uncle’s children.

Me and Mom. Glad I still get to help her. She’s fun.

They lived near a town, about 25 minutes away, out in the country where we had trouble getting cell service. They had neighbors, but I was always worried about them being able to contact someone if they needed help. My aunt was disabled with Parkinson’s, and nearly blind. My uncle was the main caregiver for her and he was getting tired. On top of that there was the difficulty of keeping warm and plowed out during our severe winters. Something had to change, and it did.

My aunt had a crisis on Friday, July 1st, and after a week in the hospital recovering it was obvious that she needed nursing home placement. I was surprised to find out that there were no available beds for her level of care anywhere in our small community. None. But there was a place for her in a care center in the town where my uncle’s daughter lived, and they were willing to accept her. I am in awe of the social workers who helped get this done so quickly that it about took my breath away. I also think it was God’s plan to give my uncle some good time with his daughters after many years of just seeing them for occasional visits.

Caregiving… my aunt and uncle didn’t require my time on any regular basis, but more as a problem solver and go between with their doctors. I helped a little with their legal and financial affairs and often with their tech problems. Cell phones and computers drove my uncle to frustration. So, you would think I would feel free and have lots of extra time now that I don’t have those responsibilities. I guess that’s partly true – but I’m mostly aware of how quickly it all happened and how I miss them. Strange.

And that is one of the strange things about caregiving. It’s often hard, restricting, physically tiring, stressful, and has distasteful elements but it is also rewarding and more meaningful than a lot of other things I might be doing. Although I’ve been a paid caregiver and felt the weight of responsibility for my clients and the importance of being faithful and dependable, being a family caregiver is that and so much more. There are no 8 or 12 hour shifts, seldom a vacation, no weekends off, no differential for nights and no overtime. There are times when it feels like I’m handing over my life to someone else.

But, it is my life, and I know I made intentional choices that determined my present circumstances. Like many other aspects of life, the challenge is in taking what comes to me and making something of it. I must make plans but I must also expect the unexpected and figure out how to respond. I want to respond to situations in ways that won’t make me disappointed in myself at some later date.

In case you haven’t noticed, preaching to myself is one of the ways I’m meeting those challenges. It helps me to remember that God has given me specific skills to use for the good of others, and that he will strengthen me and keep me in the game until I’m no longer needed. Knowing that I am in the right place, at the right time, for a good purpose makes me satisfied and gives joy. What more could I ask?