Today we will continue our Caregiver Highlight blog series with one of our favorite caregivers Alison! She is a amazing caregiver to her husband, who has Progressive MS, and son who has intellectual and development disabilities. She also supports her mom in the care of her dad who has Alzheimer’s. We wanted to show our appreciation to her and all her hard work this holiday season.
- Who do you care for and could you tell us a bit about them and their personality?
I’m a caregiver for three generations of men in my life – my dad has Alzheimer’s, my husband has Progressive Multiple Sclerosis and my 15 year-old son has intellectual disabilities. My son is the kindest, most gentle person anyone has ever met. My husband was diagnosed with MS only four weeks after we were married three years ago (it’s a second marriage) which definitely presented some bumps in the road. I assist my mom caring for my dad which is probably the hardest. Alzheimer’s is a terrible disease.
- Qualities that make a good caregiver a great caregiver / Special training or things you have learned
It sounds counter-intuitive but what truly makes a great caregiver is someone who has recognized that caring for themselves is equally as important as caring for someone else. Physically, mentally and spiritually, the caregiver must constantly replenish him/herself. It’s also important to accept the situations you can’t change and forgive yourself for those times when you lose patience. Don’t just ask for help from others – demand it! Delegate those things that you can, let go of those things that aren’t important and cherish those moments that are truly special.
- How are the holidays different from the rest of the year for you?
There are high expectations by members of the family who are trying to hang on to and relive past holidays. Unfortunately, life and circumstances change and that’s not possible. It’s constantly a juggling act trying to appease the older members of my family while creating new memories for my children. Because of my role as a caregiver I have learned to simplify as much as possible. Trips to the mall are out of the question due to my husband’s challenges with walking any my son’s sensitivity to noise and stimulation. To me, this is a blessing in disguise as we are kept away from the chaos and stress and consumerism of the holidays. I do shopping online but we keep gift giving to a minimum. I’d rather buy things throughout the year that are really necessary rather than just buy for the sake of buying. It’s also a challenge to manage my stress level. For the past three years, I’ve ended up in the emergency room with some family member due to illness. I’m learning that the best laid plans can be changed in an instant!
- Favorite thing/worst thing about being a caregiver during the holiday season
Probably the favorite things about being a caregiver is that it puts everything into perspective. Money is tight for most caregivers so we don’t get caught up in the “buying hype.” Certainly going to a mall with a special needs child is just asking for trouble and my husband simply can’t walk through a mall. I’m grateful for the small things and the feelings behind the holidays rather than the commercialism. The idea of a “perfect holiday” also goes right out the window. For the past two years, I’ve ended up on Christmas Day either taking my dad to the emergency room or visiting my uncle in the hospital. As soon as you lower your expectations, the holidays are a lot better!