From Caregiver to Advocate
As a co-caregiver for my mom, I thought about her health constantly. I spent countless days thinking about what I should do, wondering if there was anything else that I could do. I prayed a thousand times (probably more) that God would spare her having to go through the end. I encouraged, and I cried. I loved deeply, and I learned to laugh at the strangest things.
I am stronger than I thought
As a caregiver, I was the careful driver, always trying to take it easy so that I didn’t scare her. I was the detailed packer, never wanting to forget medication or spare oxygen. I learned to live with my cell phone, never turning it off and panicking if it was forgotten. I made career choices to keep me closer, and made it clear, when my husband proposed, that he should not even think about asking me to move for a long time.
I found out that I am stronger than I thought. I could do more things for her than I ever imagined. I learned how to give her shots, change her bed (with her in it) and give her a shower. I learned how to pack the car like a puzzle for a trip, and I taught her how to wear her BiPAP machine, even though she was terribly claustrophobic.
No words to fully describe
It was so incredibly hard, but there is no amount of money in this world that could come close to the worth of taking care of my mom. There were times that I could see that she wanted to give up, and maybe she would have if I had not continued to encourage her. The memories, the talks that we had, the strength that she showed, the way that she would meet me in the kitchen after I had worked a late shift, just because she could, the way that she loved my kids, my husband and me; there are no words that can fully describe how much that is worth to me.
That was my life as a caregiver.
A way of life
You need to know that being a caregiver becomes a way of life. It makes the number of choices smaller and some of the decisions harder. It causes sleepless nights when your loved one is in the hospital, and it brings amazing joy when they exercise courage and remember that life is precious and meant to be lived.
You will cry. You will pray. You will become the voice of your loved one, literally and figuratively. You will learn to keep the atmosphere of a room positive, and you will become very aware of stress levels in yourself and others around you. You will learn to use disinfectant wipes and hand sanitizer seemingly hundreds of times a day.
As an advocate, I can tell you all of this because I have been there. I have seen what stage 1 looks like, and I have seen the end. I know that what I have been through can help you as you love someone through the stages of COPD, even if it is nothing more than letting you know that you are not alone. You can do it.
How has your experience been navigating the healthcare system as someone with COPD?