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When Thanksgiving rolls around, the whole time I’m preparing the feast, my head fills with echoes of Thanksgiving Days long past. I think of my Mom, slinging that ginormous raw turkey into the ancient roasting pan, and my involuntary shivering at the smell of uncooked poultry and its innards. I think of the untold hours she spent on creating a magnificent feast for our table. I think of Dad, carving the now-roasted, deliciously golden bird. Those memories grow a bit more dim, each year, now that Mom and Dad are no longer around to care for me. I’m now the parent. I’ve taken on the role of being the one who slings the turkey carcass, and who makes the pies. It’s a role-reversal I never wanted, but loss and change are a part of life.
I think one of the sad blessings that comes from losing one’s parents prematurely is that I don’t have to endure what I see so many of my friends presently engaged in: long term caregiving of their aging parents. It is a race not for the faint of heart. It is, indeed, a marathon. Yet it’s worse than a marathon. With a marathon, the runner knows the length of the agonizing race. When your race involves the role-switching of becoming the caregiver for your own former caregiver, no one knows the length of the race, because life is unpredictable. It can be a long, slow jog, that suddenly careens into a 45º uphill sprint. Because the course of caregiving is just that capricious, at times.
I have several friends who are running that race right now, and I know from listening to them that it’s a race that can take its toll on the caregiver. Not to say that there is no joy in the journey: there can be great, great joy in being able to serve the ones who have served YOU so well. But in acting as a listening ear to my friends, they’ve confided in me their emotional and sometimes physical exhaustion, as they have added the role of “caregiver to parents” onto their already full plates. Caregivers are at risk for depression, anxiety immunosuppression, cardiovascular disease, and premature aging, not to mention the potential financial problems that sometimes come with failing health.
November is National Family Caregivers Month, and I’m pleased to partner with Midlife Boulevard to bring you some important information that will connect you to some helpful resources, available for those of us who are family caregivers. AARP has created a community of experts and caregivers, to give support to anyone who is going through this process. You’ll probably be seeing this PSA or others like it, that are aimed at raising awareness of the resources that AARP has assembled.
Please go to this link https://www.aarp.org/caregiving to find resources such as the following:
a. Prepare to Care (Caregiving Planning Guide for Families) https://www.aarp.org/content/
b. 12 Resources Every Caregiver Should Know About
c. Free eBook: Juggling Work and Caregiving https://www.aarp.org/
d. 10 Tips for Caregivers During the Holidays
I hope the links I’ve provided prove helpful to all those who are in need of a little encouragement, and a lot of support. I’m cheering you on, and glad to be a member of the support team of a few very close friends. You’re doing a beautiful thing for the ones you love, and it’s my belief that acts done in love yield great reward.