After 8 years of caring for my grandma, she left for a better place yesterday. She lived to the ripe old age of 88 and remained at her own home up until 2 months ago when dementia made her care too difficult for me. I’d have to say that she was pretty lucky to have lived that long in her home considering all the multiple medical issues she had.
Over the last few years, I went through a journey with her as her caregiver. She was extremely headstrong and determined to be independent even though it was clearly slipping from her. I had to literally fight with her to take care of her personal care issues as she was in denial of it. There were days where I’d want to scream in frustration about it. I wanted her to live in the most dignified way possible despite her mind deteriorating.
I decided to start venting about these day to day frustrations on my Facebook account since I felt so trapped at times. I had two young kids and was working too. No one can understand what it’s like to deal with many of these issues. Of course some of my family members didn’t like it and felt that I should not be discussing it openly. I was told over and and over to just put her in a care home and be done with it. These “observers” felt was the best thing to do for her. I disagreed.
I knew that doing this at that point would have made her miserable since she was too aware of what was happening. It would’ve been more awful to place her while still alert at that time. She’d likely would have given the caregiver a bad time also, which was not right to me. Not only was I dealing with her care needs, but I was also dealing with others telling me what to do.
My friends on FB instead was giving me support via their messages and comments. That is what kept me on the path to do what is right. I needed to hear support from people to keep me on the track to doing what was right for her.
As I look back on all of these years, I’ve realized that the ones with the loudest voices tend to be the ones who never experienced what it’s like to be a caregiver. They don’t know that a caregiver has to take care of another person’s bills, clean up after them, change an adult brief, cook and feed the person, wash clothes, arrange appointments, drive them places, and listen that person’s frustrations also.
One can’t just pick up and leave to go anywhere because you couldn’t leave a person with dementia alone. You literally are trapped at home, or so it feels that way. It’s easy to get caught in between that person’s own frustrations with getting old and that’s not easy to deal with either. My grandma never anticipated getting old either. The job description changes day to day and year to year. It is never static.
No one knows what caregiving is like until you actually experience it. It is easy however to stand on the outside to tell others how and what do to. When you don’t actually do the job, people come up with great solutions for everything. It’s mainly due to the fact that these finger pointers don’t even understand the problems to begin with.
I see a lot of parallels to my role as a caregiver to the issues going on in Hawaii. We’ve got thousands of SHAKA members and GMO free members pointing their fingers and holding up their protest signs trying to dictate to farmers how they want things done. The fact is that the vast majority of these folks have never farmed for a living, maybe have a garden, and don’t even have a background in agriculture, but they sure have a loud voice. They know how to fix what they perceive as the problem.
Yes, the people like Ashley Lukens of the Hawaii Center for Food Safety, failed mayoral candidate Dustin Barca, Naomi Carmona of the Babes Against Biotech, as well as pandering political leaders like Kaniela Ing, Tulsi Gabbard, and Gary Hooser all have their idealistic views of Hawaii being an organic farming haven that they tout over and over. Have any of them farmed for their living to know what it’s like? Have they studied agriculture to understand the science behind it? None can actually show the dirt under their fingernails or the callouses on their hands to show us that they indeed have any experience with what they speak about.
It’s exactly like all the naysayers I had while caring for my grandma. Easy to see something from afar and give your best advice, but way harder to step up and actually walk the talk. When you listen with those who walk the talk and do the actual work, you get a different, but real perspective of the true issues at hand.
One also develops a greater sense of respect for all the others who do the real work. So who will you listen to and respect? Will you listen to the wannabe-I-know-everything-but-know-nothing people or will you listen to those who lived the experience? I hope people start taking heed to the experienced folks over the loud and shortsighted internet activists with soft clean hands.
Rest in peace my Grandma. I hope I gave you the best life I could in your last years. You’ve taught me so much as a person these last few months. Thank you for allowing me to help you on your last journey. I hope my experience as your caregiver can help others see the truth and reality about a noble job that so many others can hopefully appreciate.
Support the people who have lived the experiences and know the reality. They deserve our wholehearted support!