The Heart of Caregiving: Thriving

Each member of Sound Generations’ Caregiver Support Program is or has been a caregiver to an older adult or adult child, creating a valuable shared experience among Advocates and those who seek their assistance. In this ongoing series—The Heart of Caregiving—our staff, volunteers and others share their personal caregiving stories and the insights learned along the way.

Thriving-by Daria Sawochka

We’ve now made it around all four seasons, full circle. Mom has been living in an assisted living facility for a little over a year. What a journey this is.

Slowly, very slowly we all began to adapt, to change. I’ve actually begun to embrace “visiting” with my Mom again. We have established a wonderful new routine. I enjoy this new role of overseeing her care, looking for any gaps or unmet needs and finding ways to address them.

I am learning how to let go of trying to control everything as I did when Mom lived with me. I am mastering many lessons in working with an array of staff and administrators at her facility. I adapt when staff changes and have developed a special appreciation for my favorite people.

I began to purposefully look for the things done well by others. I try to begin any correspondence I have with staff by mentioning this first. It’s a good reminder for me, that when noticing something not being done as I was told or thinking it could be done better, there were also things going well at the same time. I would talk of my appreciation for all the staff do. When I did this, I noticed a partnership forming. Not us vs them but we. We all began to work together. We all needed one another to be successful with our overall mission of providing quality care to Mom. I had to admit to myself that I needed them. I had already tried to do it all on my own and had begun to drown. I realized Mom’s care needs are growing not shrinking at this stage of her life.

Then a worldwide pandemic hit and everything changed. Just when we caregivers thought life couldn’t get much harder, it did. Caregivers are learning you can keep a loved one at home to ensure you’ll remain in one another’s daily lives or choose placement and risk the possibility of not seeing your loved one or touching the warmth of their hand. Sometimes it’s a choice and sometimes it is a necessity. Either way, challenges remain.

This road, to say the least, has been bumpy. The place Mom resides has fared better than most at keeping Covid-19 exposures at bay, most of the time. They have had a few along the way, with a recent one resulting in a complete lockdown with no visits for over a month. Then, just this week, I got to see Mom again. The night before the visit, I woke up in the middle of the night, worrying what she’d be like. Would there be clear signs of decline? Would her memory issues have worsened? Would the cruelness of her isolation be visible to me?

We ended up having a delightful visit amidst a breezy, drizzly day under a tent that Mom thought would surely fly away at any moment. We laughed and held hands and remembered. Mom actually looked peaceful, content. I was reminded how much resilience and inner strength this woman possesses for this journey that is her life.

Driving away that day, I realized something. She was thriving without me. This truth jarred my ego a bit. I have long held the belief that no one cares for a mother like we daughters, but devoted staff come remarkably close, especially in the midst of a pandemic. Perhaps it takes a pandemic to bring out the stark and vivid reality that each of us decides what we will and will not do, and how these decisions effect not only ourselves, but the well-being and lives of others too. The staff make choices in their everyday lives that have a direct impact on the residents they care for. And when I am able to visit with Mom indoors again, I shall keep this in mind, for that is the kind of team member I am too.