The Reluctant Caregiver

Thank you for reading my blog. Yes, you who are reading this right now. I have benefited from the support in this blogging community and would like to give support in return by offering a once per month guest post.

So, today I’d like to introduce you to a wonderful member of our blogging community.

Joy and I have followed each other for a long time. When I first met her, she had recently lost her father and started a blog in remembrance of him. She soon had an ailing mother who needed her help. That’s when things got really rough, and her blog changed shape from there. Her experiences with her parents catapulted her into promoting advocacy for caregivers to which she also volunteers her time. Now, she’s even wrote a book about those experiences. I’ll let her tell you the rest.

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Not everyone is born a natural caregiver.

As a thirty-something career woman, I was focused on my job as a journalist and concerned about finances. I am not a mother, and have never even changed a baby’s diaper. I have pets, but scooping a litter box, taking the dog for a walk, and filling food bowls is a far cry from the complexities of motherhood.

Then my parents became ill. My father developed dementia, and I watched from afar as my mother struggled to care for him, as I live in Georgia and my parents retired in New Mexico. Eventually, he ended up in a memory care center, and died within a year. I was still grappling with the grief and guilt surrounding my father’s death when my mother suddenly fell ill six months later.

My mother was diagnosed with stage III colon cancer and required emergency surgery. As an only child, I had no choice but to step up and fill the family caregiver shoes, though I felt woefully unprepared for the role. Over the next year, I quit my job and temporarily moved to New Mexico to help with my mother’s recovery. I learned more about my mother — and myself — than I ever imagined possible.

The Reluctant Caregiver is a collection of essays I wrote over the span of several years about the trials and tribulations of caregiving. I believe the book will resonate with younger family caregivers who may find the task especially challenging. The essays explore raw emotions in unfiltered fashion, and some essays contain language that some may find objectionable. I hope readers will be moved by these stories, to laugh, to cry, and to get angry at the injustices in our health care system. I also hope you will be moved to become a caregiver advocate, because if I learned anything from this experience, it is that caregivers are not valued nearly enough in our society. If you’d like to learn more, follow my blog, The Memories Project, and visit my website.

Bio:

Joy Johnston is an experienced digital journalist who has covered everything from terrorist attacks to the cat that’s Donald Trump’s doppelgänger. She received the 2015 Rick Bragg Prize for Nonfiction from the Atlanta Writers Club. Her work has been published in Chicken Soup for the Soul and other anthologies. She writes about dementia and caregiving on her blog, The Memories Project, and is a featured author on The Caregiver Space.

Book link:

Digital copy available for free for your blog followers:

https://www.instafreebie.com/free/PXvqu

Note: Paperback version to be available soon.

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30 comments

  1. I think If we only think ourselves the time when we are still a baby when our parents care us happily even if keeps on doing wrong broke everything messed up everything pee in our pants, pooh in our pants etc but still they don’t complain they are happy giving us care what we need, they are happy to see our cute smiles, so I think caring them is just viceversa on what they did to us

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Giovanni. Yes, our parents do nurture and care for us lovingly throughout our childhoods. They’re always so strong for us, and it’s difficult to watch them deteriorate with age. You’re right, they need our support.

      Thanks for reading about Joy’s book.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hello Lori, agreed, I am now thinking what to do with my parents when they grow old that I repay them on what they had done to me when I was still a baby, You’re Welcome. I love your story

        Liked by 1 person

    1. So true that being an only child in a caregiving situation has its pros and cons. No siblings to fight over care issues, but often the only child ends up being solely responsible for care and difficult decision-making.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Wow, I wish I’d read Joy’s essays when I was 17/18 and care giving for my mother who was dying of cancer at home. I would definitely have related to the raw emotions and ‘objectionable language’…. It was hard and I will admit I mostly just wanted to get on with my life: although it was the worse thing I’ve ever been through, I did on occasion wish her dead when I couldn’t take any more. At the same time, I didn’t believe she would die and I thought she’d just be ill forever. I dreamed all the time that she’d get cured. She was only in her late 30s. So I understand the challenges, and the mixed feelings when people say you’re a saint for doing it; it’s very, very complex. Heartbreaking above to read in comment of teenagers caring for their HIV-ravaged parents. I’ll look out for Joy’s work.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Holy Cow, that must’ve been really difficult as a teenager, DS. Part of the problem is that they need to be taken care of despite the relationship/dysfunctional issues a family may have. I’ve been reading her book of essays, and it reads really more like a memoir. There are many things in there that even I could relate to about relationships with parents as an adult, and I’m not a caregiver.

      How heartbreaking that you had to care for and lose your mom at such a young age. My heart goes out to you. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Wow, how young to be a caregiver and how young for your mother to be battling cancer. It is understandable that the emotions would run high in such a difficult situation. You are right, caregiving is such a complex, personal experience.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Thank you for your post. My parents passed many years ago – my mother at a fairly young age and my father very unexpectedly. Neither of them required extended care. Many people need to care for their parents however and it’s a very difficult position that doesn’t get much attention.

    Nice to “meet” you Joy.

    Looking forward to the rest of your series, Lori. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hi Lynette. Sad to hear you lost your parents at a young age. Like Joy said, that also has it challenges.

      Thanks for reading about Joy’s endeavors with caregiving, and for sharing your own experience.

      Like

  4. What a difficult ordeal to go through. Taking care of our parents is definitely a task fraught with love, confusion, discomfort, joy, and pain. Good on you for putting the experience into words. Best of luck with it.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I am sorry about what you went through. I can relate with you, having taken care of ailing relatives starting from my mid-twenties, some of whom died under my watch. I would feel sorry for myself until I looked at the countless teenagers around me who cared for their HIV-ravaged parents, had no money and their relatives had deserted them. It is still devastating, however, to see a loved one deteriorating even though one is older and more financially secure.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hi Z-Lady. You started caretaking at a very young age. Joy’s book is raw with the truth about how she felt throughout the process. Thanks for reading about it and sharing your experience.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Thank you for sharing your caregiving experience. As you indicated, there is no age limit on caregiving. While we may expect to have to face such duties as we grow older, it can be especially difficult on young people.

      Liked by 3 people

  6. My father is the sole caregiver for my mother who has Alzheimer’s. I find myself in the position of being my father’s caregiver, trying to make sure he takes time to rest and take care of himself. You’re so right, Joy, caregivers aren’t valued enough in our society. Thanks for visiting today. Thanks, Lori!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Jill for your comment. In my case, it was the opposite, my mother the sole caregiver for my father who had Alzheimer’s. You are wise to look after your father’s health, that is so important!

      Liked by 2 people

    2. It must be so hard on your dad. I’m glad you’re there for them. I agree with Joy. It is wise that you are there to watch after him and make sure he’s taking care of himself. Hugs. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Taking care of ailing parents is one of the hardest jobs of all. I remember becoming aware that someone who was my idol for my entire life didn’t always know where she was or what she was doing. Very painful.

    Liked by 1 person

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