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AARP’s Caregiving Story Campaign: Kay from Virginia

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Kay020AARP is running a campaign “I ❤ Caregivers”. I shared my story and hope you will consider sharing yours.

I am your classic sandwich generation caregiver. A few years ago, my parents started to change, subtly at first. My Mom didn’t recognize an old family recipe I made (my cooking is not THAT bad) and my Dad’s humor dimmed. Over the course of the next few years, there was a stroke (Mom), broken hip (Dad) but they recovered and remained independent. We now recognize that both parents were walking into dementia together and we were very worried for their safety. Our parents were in a Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC), but they were unwilling to change their lives as their health changed.

Our parents drove even after their doctor submitted papers to revoke their driver’s license. My siblings came to town to help hide cars and manage through this change. Then my parents would jump into cabs and arrive at their destination with no money. One evening our parents broke into their own home–then called the police to say someone broke into their home. They fought hard to maintain their independence and didn’t want anything to change, but it needed to change.

Last year my father died of cancer that was undetected until he could no longer move his tongue. It was a hard choice to make–do we put a man with Alzheimer’s through chemo? Four weeks after his diagnosis he died in hospice care.

Having your Mom call and ask you why you never told her that her husband died is heartbreaking. The hardships she faced being alone and not remembering were difficult to navigate. She is in an Assisted Living community and we are facing a steep decline that landed her hospice care two weeks ago.

Thankfully, my parents were very open about discussing their wishes for end-of-life care. Knowing what they want and making those choices is still difficult.

The experience was so overwhelming, I ended up leaving my full-time job in an executive role at a Fortune 500 to launch a business (MemoryBanc) to help other caregivers organize all the papers and documents needed to support a loved one.

In 2013, MemoryBanc won the AARP Foundation Prize for “Older-Adult Focused Innovation.”  It turns out, everyone over the age of 40 should use the system to get their documents, accounts and assets organized.

I don’t wish this path on anyone, but the journey has made my life richer, my bonds with my siblings stronger, and my path and choices for the rest of my life clear. Accomplished.

2 comments on “AARP’s Caregiving Story Campaign: Kay from Virginia

  1. I love this essay. Your last line completely captures my experience as well; to say the years of my mom’s dementia were “tough” is an understatement, yet it brought us closer together, taught me to slow down and understand what matters, and shaped my values for the rest of my life. Thank you, Kay. Richer.

  2. Hey Hallie – Thank you. It’s like a mid-life wake up call!

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