My father has Parkinson’s. He is 74 years young, and was diagnosed almost 4 years ago. My mother and he were married for over 40 years before she died in 2010. I have one sibling, an older brother, but he lives with his family in Alaska. All that adds up to the fact that I am my father’s primary caretaker. I moved in with him after his diagnosis (and shortly after I got sober — “hello, responsibility wake up call!”). For the most part, his illness has not affected his life that much. He still lives in his home. He still has his cat. He still sits in his recliner watching baseball and eating ice cream. It has, however, affected my life. A lot. And despite my frequent pity parties and whining about it, it has mostly affected my life for the good. Here is what I have learned, thus far.
- I have almost no patience.
- Caretakers really need a lot of patience.
- I have a lot of really great friends.
- Caretakers need a good support system.
- Never go too far away from home.
- You should have a space in your home completely yours. A space that is warm, cozy and inviting, where you can find respite and recharge your batteries.
- There is nothing more valuable than our sense of humor.
- Finding ways to entertain yourself and promote spiritual growth is crucial if you are a caretaker.
- Having conversations about life planning, end of life care, and aged life care with your parent is beyond uncomfortable.
- Lots of things are uncomfortable.
- “This too shall pass.” Both the good things and the bad things will pass. This is a universal truth.
- I am reliable. I am dependable. Two words I never in a million years would have associated with myself prior to this experience.
- Everyone is an expert.
- No one is an expert.
- Most people mean well.
- Having a creative outlet is necessary for total mental health.
- Self care cannot be overlooked. Ever. Self care includes exercise, eating well, sleep, downtime, alone time, phone calls with friends, funny movies, music, watching hours of “Tiny House Nation,” blogging, time in nature, time with friends, manicure and pedicures, getting your hair done, reading, cooking, daydreaming, journalling, and time spent doing absolutely nothing.
- You can do more than you ever thought you could. Really. You can.
- You will never regret the opportunity to be the person that you always wanted to be — loving, kind, compassionate, reliable, strong, trustworthy, and faithful.
- Everyone should listen to Robert Earl Keen. (See video below. You are welcome.)