With father’s day approaching I can’t think of a better time to recognize and celebrate my dad’s role as primary caregiver to his wife and life partner, my mum.
They would have been married for 55 years this year and will always be an inspiration to me. Staying true to their commitment to each other, they grew in strength as a couple as they overcame life’s challenges together.
They showed us how to enjoy the good times and how to be strong and determined through the not so good.
They supported each other unconditionally, selflessly, and wholeheartedly.
So when mum began showing signs of cognitive issues in her late 60s and received a diagnosis of Lewy Body Dementia, dad gave all of himself to care for his soulmate.
Just as he had done previously, when mum battled with and survived breast cancer on two separate occasions.
I spoke with dad recently about his experiences as mum’s primary caregiver. I half wondered if he would want to open up and talk about it because it was such a traumatic time for everyone, and especially him.
As mum’s condition worsened she became increasingly challenging to live with and care for. She became agitated and often aggressive. Dad described it as a death by a thousand paper cuts because living in that environment he experienced the gradual and steady slide into despair, where there was only one eventual outcome.
He had reached exhaustion, physically, mentally, and emotionally. He had to watch her constantly, keeping the doors locked in case she wandered out into the street, forgetting where she was. He recalled the time that they were driving back from visiting my younger brother and mum suddenly became agitated in the passenger seat, releasing her seatbelt, and almost throwing herself out of the moving car. Whilst trying to keep the vehicle straight, slowing down, and avoiding traffic, dad managed to pull her in and calm her down.
For three years he cared for mum in their forever home, the place where they had raised three boys together. Dad’s own health and safety was now a major concern. He gave everything and I cannot put into words how that makes me feel. It is an understatement to say how much I admire and respect him and am so proud to call him my dad.
We had reached an emotional threshold and as a family we made the heartbreaking decision that mum was going to be more comfortable and receive the professional care that she needed by moving into a specialized care home.
Sitting on the sofa together, holding hands, and weeping, mum and dad said to each other how they “couldn’t believe that things had come to this”.
Caregivers are incredible people, they amaze me, and inspire me. You are all superheroes.
Caregiving can be an isolating place so if you know of anyone who is taking care of a loved one then please reach out to them, show them your appreciation, and let them know that they are seen.
Thank you dad.