Honoring our caregivers can take many forms

Recently my mother returned home to New Hampshire after two wonderful weeks visiting me and my husband here in California. I had lots of goals for the visit, and we accomplished many of them.

Two remarkable things happened that I did not plan for.

Because we finally had some quality time together, my mother opened up about some of the high and low points on her journey caregiving for my father. When times were physically and emotionally the hardest for her, she told me, she would will herself to get through just one more day, especially in the last few years of my father’s life.

Parkinson’s disease was a battle they both were fighting.

She recounted the last time she and my father made the trip from New Hampshire to Myrtle Beach, S.C., for two months over the winter. They took a commuter plane back home, and on this particular day, my father’s “freezing” from Parkinson’s was so bad, he could not get himself out of the seat when the plane landed.

After all the other passengers got off the plane, the flight attendants tried to figure out how to help my dad off, as the narrow aisle of the commuter plane would not accommodate a wheelchair. Finally, they brought out a dolly, strapped my father to it and rolled him down a ramp. It was humiliating, my mother said. She will never forget how embarrassed they both were.

On the other hand, a high point occurred recently when she attended the funeral of our childhood neighbor, Patricia. Patricia’s three sons made a beeline for my mother, saying my dad was like a second father to them.

When they needed a tool to repair a bicycle, for example, my father would tell them to bring the bike over, and they would work on it together. And when the boys’ dog Duchess was hit by a car and died, my father made a grave marker for them from his woodworking set. It was so meaningful to my mother to hear about the old days and how my father made a positive difference in the lives of these men.

Then there was the day early in my mother’s visit when I had a sudden moment of inspiration.

A few years earlier, I had treated myself to a professional portrait session with local master portrait photographer Kitti McMeel. I figured if folks were going to look at my picture above my column, it should at least be a current one.

I thought, how about a portrait session for my mother, so that she could see the beauty others see in her.

I quickly called Kitti to see if she could fit in a session for my mother while she was in town. She could. I knew it could be an empowering and inspiring event because Kitti does such an amazing job of bringing a person’s inner light to the outside.

I had the double pleasure of Kitti taking some legacy portraits of my mother and me at the same time. It was an experience to treasure. Reveal day came, and we were blown away. What a gift the session was for both of us.

This visit with my mother underscored for me how very energizing it can be for a caregiver to share thoughts and feelings, to be listened to and to be honored for all that they do.

To honor all the other family caregivers out there, on Fri., March 15 Senior Concerns will host the fourth annual Caregiver Recognition Day at Los Robles Greens in Thousand Oaks.

The free event is intended to honor and inspire local family members who are caring for an aging loved one. This year, Fritz Coleman of NBC4 will be the special guest comedian.

And I am especially excited to announce that one lucky attendee will win a portrait session of their own donated by Kitti McMeel.

For more information on Caregiver Recognition Day or to make reservations, go to www.seniorconcerns.org.

Spread the word about this remarkable event. It will be a lasting gift for someone who works so hard caring for another.

 

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Andrea GallagherAndrea Gallagher

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