My uncle Murray was diagnosed with early onset Parkinson’s Disease in his early 50s. The medications and procedures were not developed at that time –about 40 years ago–and all my Aunt and cousins could do was to keep my uncle out of trouble in the early stages and keep him comfortable in the late stages. This went on for about 20 plus years.
I was impressed with a needlepoint on their wall with the large letters of MOLLAND running vertical. “What’s MOLLAND?” my young mind quickly asked, though not out loud. Then I read the words next to each letter. May Our Love Last And Never Die. Wow I thought…that is special.
Aunt Lea was totally devoted to her husband. I am sure her life was as shattered as his with this devastating illness. His life was hers. Her life was his. And so it went. When she was no longer able to care for him at home she reluctantly placed him in a nursing home.
Just after he died she was diagnosed with late stage Colon Cancer. She was diagnosed with late stage Colon Cancer while he was still alive. She succumbed to the disease shortly after his death. She went from caregiver to one who needed caregiving in a very short time. …something we typically hear with long-time married couples of this generation
This story is not new or unique. It illustrates the perils of caregiving for a loved one and not heeding to their own needs including medical, social and emotional. Caregiving is difficult and rewarding at the same time. Caregivers need to strike a balance in order to stay healthy and be a good caregiver. It’s only fair. Here are a few tips:
- Go out one time a week and do something you like to do
- See friends and family
- Stay active
- Get respite help at least one day a week
- Go to important events in your family
As for Aunt Lea and Uncle Murray…their love never did die.