Evelyn’s mother was very independent, however as she got older, she decided to move closer to her family. Evelyn began noticing small changes in her mother and as these changes progressed, it became clear that her mother needed more help than she was willing to admit. Evelyn’s mother was diagnosed with dementia, and she cared for her as best she could. Her mother experienced a stroke in January which changed her circumstances and called for a place of constant care. Evelyn found her mother a wonderful local facility that provided her mother with full-time care and socialization with the other residents.
Evelyn faced several challenges of caregiving. The alternate reality that dementia patients experience makes them difficult to reason with because they do not realize that they have this diagnosis. Evelyn describes this challenge as the “goalposts constantly moving” because the disease makes it difficult to remain grounded in real-time. This makes caregiving difficult because Evelyn’s mother remembers her old life and resists care but does not have the capacity in her current state to care for herself. Communication has become increasingly challenging because the patient is not mentally in the present time.
Evelyn finds joy in caregiving because it allows her to care for her mother, who made sacrifices to care for her and her siblings their whole lives. One of Evelyn’s most prominent concerns when choosing a plan of action to care for her mother was ensuring she had friends and activities to keep her engaged, in addition to her safety and health both mentally and physically. Evelyn found this peace of mind in the Arbor at Weinberg Village where her mother receives the care and interaction that she needs, in addition to Evelyn’s caregiving.
Evelyn found Hope Grows through an email sent by Weinberg Village, which invited her to take advantage of their services. She has found a sense of community with Hope Grows and finds it very helpful to be able to discuss the challenges she faces as a caregiver with people who understand. Evelyn joined the Caregiver Connect program over the summer and finds the phone calls extremely helpful because they provide wonderful support and reminders to breathe. Evelyn keeps her “breathe” rock at her desk because it acts as a visual reminder to care for herself. She noted that as caregivers, specifically women, we do not always take care of ourselves, so the repetitive reminders emphasize how important it is to care for our physical and mental health. Hope Grows programs have given Evelyn a sense of control, not in the sense that her journey is complete, but being able to decide to approach a situation calmly. Takeaways that Evelyn has from our programs include the tools necessary to navigate this new season of life and the value of gardening. She enjoys how relatable the community is and that everyone is going through the same things, so their experiences provide valid and valuable examples to draw from in the future.
Evelyn’s outlook on caregiving shifted once she began caregiving for her mother, which has been most of her older life. She notes that it is a journey to undertake, and it is necessary to take care of yourself, in addition to recognizing that you are not alone. She encourages other caregivers to participate in the Hope Grows programs, stating that “you may do things for yourself that qualify for self-care but the mindfulness that Hope Grows provides enhances the experience and allows you to recognize the importance. The programs create a community of caregivers, and it is nice to know that you can reach out to other caregivers.” Evelyn’s best advice to other caregivers is to listen to their patients and adjust to their reality.