As the idea for Lot of Love developed, the members of its start up team, found inspiration in the caregiving stories of their families. As a member of the start up team, Jaid Ritter, was inspired by her Grandma, Barb's, caregiving story.
We asked Barb to share her experience caring for her Husband, Mel, who suffered from brain cancer, and epilepsy. Barb was the primary caregiver throughout his life, and particularly, through the most difficult times of his illness.
Barb's overwhelming love for others, and positive outlook gives her a strength and presence, that is unforgettable.
Here’s the beautiful story and advice she shared with us, and other caregivers –
A caregiver is someone who cares about or gives care to someone that can’t care for themselves. That special person might be a family member, friend or someone hired to care for them. In my case, being a caregiver for my husband, who had brain cancer, was definitely a labor of love.
My husband could do a lot for himself during the first few years of his diagnosis with brain cancer. We could take walks to the little donut shop near us, visit with friends, or take rides around the countryside to see what had changed in our area. Of course, the many trips to doctor’s appointments for treatments made up a large portion of our activities.
As a caregiver, I found that knowing his likes, dislikes, and needs certainly helped. I did my best to surround him with the things he loved. He loved spending time with his grandchildren, so we spent as much time with them as we could. We spent many hours looking at old pictures and talking about them, which always made him smile. Calls and visits became so important to him. As he became less able to do the things that he enjoyed, I felt it was my responsibility to do more to help him enjoy his days in some way. Once he became mostly bed-ridden, We put his bed in the living room, just so he could see the countryside he enjoyed so much.
As he began to lose the ability to do many of the normal functions that many of us take for granted, it became my responsibility to help more with those things. Making sure that he was bathed and fed became a big part of each day. I finally decided to hire an aid to stay with us to help me. This allowed me to get some rest and do other things that needed to be done. It’s so hard to explain the reality of the stress that being a caregiver puts on the mind and body. When you’re living with the one you’re caring for, the situation becomes constant and demanding. It’s always helpful to have family or friends that show up to share their time.
As my husband’s decline in many ways made me feel helpless for us both, I began to realize that he would be leaving me soon, and I wondered what on earth I would do without him. Having the wonderful kids and grandchildren I have, I knew I wouldn’t be alone but would experience a lot of lonely times in different ways. After eleven years, I’m still remembering and healing, my days are filled with grandchildren and great grandchildren, that bring me smiles every day.
I would suggest to anyone who is or will become a care giver, remember to care for yourself too. Always ask for help when needed and accept that help. There’s always someone else in those shoes too, so reach out. If you know of someone that might enjoy a visit, an ice cream cone, or a laugh, make that time.
- Barb R.