When my mother announced she was having her hip replaced, she made it sound like any other appointment. You know, like getting her teeth cleaned or setting a lunch date with friends. Come to think of it, she was so matter of fact about the surgery that I didn’t think much about the before and after, or how she would feel, or what she might need from her family.
This is the most active woman I know. Between work, volunteering, travelling and friends, her calendar is always overbooked. When she answers my call, my question is standard: So? Where did I catch you? I can promise you this for sure: She’s never lying around in bed binge-watching Netflix like her daughter. Instead, she’s out at some important event, some convention, some dinner, some play, wining and dining and making the world a better place.
My mother has always been a firecracker, and nothing—not time, not age, not 10 grandkids—will stop her from exhausting me with her unending lust for life. And then she underwent a hip replacement.
Here’s the thing. Because my mother is so fiercely independent, it didn’t occur to me that post-surgery, she’d need to be taken care of. Here is a woman who is expert at caregiving. Being in physical need or asking for support is not her style. Well, we were in for a shock. Soon, she’d be flying from one end of the spectrum to the other. She’d be going from completely self-sufficient to pretty much down for the count.
At first, I tried to help out. I squeezed visits into my days, stopping by to check on her progress and to meet the physiotherapist she’d hired to get her body moving. On my grocery runs, I’d duplicate my list, and carry her share up to her condo fridge. But this time, I didn’t have to take the lead. My dad had booked time off work and luckily, my parents had the means to hire a daily nurse to take on what he couldn’t. Still, I had peeked into a window. It was a glimpse into what the future might be like as my parents age.
A few questions kept me up at night. How would I handle serious illness that required me to be on call 24/7—both emotionally and physically? How would I get work done while accommodating another person’s needs? What if the financial or emotional burden got too heavy?
As fate would have it, I saw the caregiver role from the other side shortly after my mom was back on her feet, back to her superwoman self. I slipped on a patch of black ice and shattered my leg and in a flash, the tables had turned. I went from someone who basically runs a family of five to a blubbering mess who couldn’t stand up. I needed help. Lots of help.
And I learned a lot about myself. It turns out that I’m like my mom after all.
Asking for help was torture because when I’m in pain, I’m a pain in the butt. Not only was I unable to stand, let alone walk, my bitch meter was cranked up all the way. I drove everyone who tried to help me crazy with my foul mood, insistence on isolation, and inability to get in and out of the bathtub alone. My family and friends were willing to help but I didn’t want them to see me this way. I needed someone who could handle the physical and emotional stress, someone who could help without breaking down. Someone like my mother. She was the only one I felt free enough to let see me at my naked worst. And she was there for me, even if it was hard to see me cry.
Here’s one thing I learned: Being the caregiver—or the one receiving care—isn’t easy for anyone.
HOW TO BE A GOOD CAREGIVER
Caregiving is a tough but rewarding job, and it’s more common than you’d think. Today, 1 in 4 Canadians identify as caregivers, and that number is expected to grow to 1 in 3 by 2020.
But guess what? There’s a place where people thrust into this role can find the support and tools they need to care for family and themselves.
Even if you’re a compassionate person who loves caring for others, you’ll need support, too, and you can find it at Elizz.com. Fresh, simple and easy to navigate, this website is a one stop shop for all things caregiving. From articles and resources for the DIY Caregiver to virtual advice through caregiver coaches and nurse advisors to health care services provided in the home, it’s all in one convenient place.
Elizz also offers peer-to-peer group support as well as a personalized social network called Tyze, which helps individual caregivers manage their situation and connections with family and friends. Did you know there are five stages of caregiving, ranging from helping out with everyday activities to providing 24/7 care and support? You do now.
Bottom line: I’ve realized that discovering more about myself as a caregiver, and preparing well for the journey ahead, is key to not getting blindsided by the work it takes to do it right. The Elizz Caregiver Coach service is a great place to start, as is the 5 Stages of Caregiving Quiz. A coaching session helps to build caregiver confidence by answering your questions, outlining options, providing expert advice to help you navigate the health care system, and building a care plan that works for everyone. Want to know Which Elizz caregiver services are right for you?
If I can do this, so can you. Especially now that there’s help—for everyone. Because let’s face it, no one should face adversity alone.