November is Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness and Caregivers Month! Last year at this time, our very own Aurora Delespin-Jones wrote a guest column on her personal experiences as a family caregiver. We received such great feedback from readers, that I asked her to follow-up this year with the next chapter of her story. Thank you to those who felt compelled to share your stories with us. I’m incredibly grateful to Aurora for her work in reaching out to our city’s caregivers. The passion she conveys shows up in the work she does each and every day here at DCOA. To our caregivers, thank you for all that you do to keep our families and communities together.
Guest Columnist Aurora Delespin Jones, Deputy Director, D.C. Office on Aging
It’s hard to believe it’s been a year since I last wrote to readers in recognition and celebration of National Caregivers Month! I’m happy for the opportunity, and so grateful that many of you let me know that my article helped you. And with this opportunity to engage you again, I would like to share with you my experience of “Release!” in hopes that you approach the holiday season with a commitment to letting go and living well! For those who have lost, and those who keep on giving, I celebrate you!
When I set out on the journey to care for me after caring for Mom, I discovered why airplanes, automobiles, and engines of all types, shapes, and sizes suddenly stop, give out, and crash when the needle points to ‘E’ — you can go no further.
When the wind ceases, you can sail no longer—only drift until the next breeze blows. When there is no fire from the piston, the motor won’t turn over because the fuel tank is emptied. You stop still, motionless, numb…Crash! Left alone in the wilderness of an unfamiliar, hazed, desolate, and airless space in time, you realize the pain in your reality—Mom is Gone. She’ll never return.
She’s Gone. Leaving me with a list of things to do and nothing more.
Gone. With no instructions, game plan, or road map to guide me through this terrible abyss. Gone. Never to be able to comfort her, speak to her, give her loving embraces with a soothing confidence in my ability to take care of her. Gone. With no warmth in consolation or words of wisdom; no sternness of motivation; no admonition leading me to resolve conquering all my fears, doubts, self-destructive thoughts, motives, and behaviors that would keep me from achieving my dreams. Gone.
I crashed on Monday, Dec. 6, 2015. My Mom passed Friday, Nov. 27 — the day after Thanksgiving. All that was left was her bed and oxygen tank still in the same place as it was eight months ago, when Mom entered hospice. It had been more than a week since making my first call to the nurse about having these items removed. I told the nurse the bed was beginning to bother me emotionally and mentally.
And I needed the obstacles to my healing removed. I needed a release from that state of petrified paralysis so I could be put back together again — brand new, bigger, better, stronger, wiser, more knowledgeable, more sensitive, and kinder to myself.
I needed a release to be able to share a God-given gift to help others who care long, hard, sacrificially, and genuinely for those they love, and help them to better understand their future journey through the lenses of my precious hours caring for Mom. So I wrote my pain on the pages of a journal and began to frame a journey to healing by recording my past.
During this season, write your feelings. Capture your frustrations and express your efforts to yourself. Go back and read the raw recordings periodically.
Focus then on your progress — no matter how small — and bullet them as steps or tips for someone else’s benefit.
Create a resource list for supplies, supports or other needed resources you found.
Share with other caregivers who may need relief.
Embrace their feedback, especially their praises of you!
Do this often and before you know it, you will tune in to yourself and begin to map a plan to let go, and to celebrate the strength, capacity and power within you to sustain in the journey — or to release and live well!
Remember Aging is living and thriving! During this month let us help you. The DC Office on Aging is here to assist in any way we can to help you on your journey. Contact us on 202-724-5626.
Today we honor our most precious resource — caregivers!