I want to take time to express deep gratitude to long-term caregivers.
My parents were both diagnosed with Alzheimer's on the same day. Over the following five years their decline gained momentum like a boulder rolling downhill. I was working full time as an elementary school teacher and my only sibling, although very involved, lived 1,000 miles away. Eventually, I had no choice but to move my mom and dad into a locked memory care unit.
The logistics of the paragraph above gloss over the deeply painful process of decision making involved in becoming the parent to my parents. No one raises their hand and eagerly volunteers to put a loved one in a secure unit. That decision is always made with trepidation when there are no other options. I'd always loved and respected my mom and dad, therefore the act of putting them in a secure unit out of my reach caused guilt. I felt like I was taking everything away from the two people who had given me everything.
Often when I arrived for visits, staff might be showering or changing an adult who thought they did not need such assistance, cleaning up after a spill or another kind of accident, calming an agitated or aggressive resident, or even calling an ambulance for a fall resulting in a broken bone. In short, these caregivers were spinning a million plates and still wearing a smile.
I can't imagine the stress of being a long-term caregiver. The physical strength alone required to lift and care for incapacitated adults eventually breaks the bodies of these carers. I think we'd all agree, it's easier and much more fun to change a baby's diaper.
My parents loved their caregivers. I'd often hear staff members singing and joking with Mom and Dad, creating happiness. My parents were so lost in the disease I knew they couldn't fake their pleasant reactions to their caregivers.
As my parents' lives came toward the end, they believed they saw their long deceased mother, father, and siblings. I came to understand Mom and Dad were surrounded by a cloud of their loved ones waiting for them to step across the threshold to the eternal. I also believed the caregivers within these facilities worked surrounded by this cloud of angels.
Even when my parents spent their last days and hours in hospice care, the carers who had attended to them while in the memory care unit came to a vigil at the beginning and end of their shifts, still smoothing Mom and Dad's hair, wiping their brow. Easing their transition.
We as the families of those placed in long-term care owe a huge debt to these caregiving angels who tend to not only the functions of those aging bodies, but soothe their souls as well. May God bless these caregiving angels as they work in the world between ours and the beyond.