What a pleasure it was for me to be interviewed by Denise M. Brown of Caregiving.com. We talked about my caregiving experience; you’ll find her questions and my answers below.
Caregiving.com: What did you do right when you were caring for your dad?
Carolyn: Regardless of the medical challenges my dad faced I was at his side every step of the way.
What I did right, and what I recommend to all caregivers, is to learn all you can about the condition or disease of the one you are caring for. I continued to seek the knowledge I needed to know and to fully understand my father’s condition. I constantly looked for new medical treatments and options for my father, as well as learning about dementia and Alzheimer’s.
As a direct result of consistently seeking knowledge, I was able to save my father life on September 19, 2008. That day I noticed a sudden change in my father’s appearance, gait (walk), darkening of the skin and lack of movement on left side on his body. At that time it appeared to me that my father had suffered a stroke.
I immediately took my father to what I thought would be a routine doctors visit. However, after many tests the doctor told me that my father was having a massive hematoma (bleeding on the brain). Oh boy, if it was not for the fact I sought the knowledge I needed to care for my father he more than likely would have died. My father use to tell me, “Knowledge is Power.” My father, a pastor, would also quote Hosea 4: 6, “My people perish from a lack of knowledge.”
I gave my life to honor and care for my dad as I still honor his legacy and contribution to the world through my work.
Caregiving.com: What was the biggest challenge you faced as a caregiver? How did you overcome it?
Carolyn: Struggling with the legal, medical, financial, and family issues that come up when adult children handle such matters poorly (whether due to denial or to strife). The biggest challenge I faced was the worst-case scenario of sibling rivalry and resentment, which interfered with planning and care of my dad. My siblings and I are living proof that this can go very, very wrong, leading to no one’s benefit, neither the children, nor the parents.
For years I asked my siblings for help while I was caring for our dad. They simply told me that they were too busy with their own lives. Try to imagine how it must feel to love and care for a parent for over 12 years as the primary caregiver without any help from family members. And then one day suddenly and unexpectedly a family member falsifies documentations of abuse charges against the primary caregiver because one sibling thought Dad was dying and wanted to take over his financial affairs. This sibling filed abuse charges in three different jurisdictions, dropping the charges each time we appeared before each judge.
This was the most devastating, heart-breaking, and life changing experience I have ever had to endure. To think that a sibling could have that much hatred and resentment piled up for many years is mind boggling.
How did I overcome it? I haven’t. My heart is still broken as I have learned to grieve mindfully, and stay far away from people places and things that would cause me sadness. However, I have been working with members of our U.S. Congress with the aim to protect seniors and veterans. Also, making the Veterans Administration responsible for upholding the decisions that veterans have made about the appointment of a financial fiduciary and medical representative in the event of their disability and protecting those whom they select.
What also helps me with this challenge is my goal to empower caregivers and their family members with the knowledge of the possible challenges they might have to face together while caring for an aging parent. That is why I wrote my book, Why Wait?.
Caregiving.com: What’s your favorite memory during your caregiving years?
Carolyn: My favorite memory while caring for Dad is that he would always say, “Carolyn, I love you, you are God’s special child.” Dad would tell me this every day. I would look forward to seeing Dad, knowing that he loved to say, “Carolyn, I love you, you are God’s special child.” Today in my spirit I hear my dad’s voice saying those very words to me which makes me smile.
It also brings a memory of when I was a child. My dad often told me I was “God’s special child” and that God had great things for me to do in my life. I never would have imagined the great work and the calling God has anointed me to do for humanity. However, through all of my years of heartache and pain, I learned to trust in God and, as a Christian, I’ve tried to walk in Jesus’ footsteps. To this day, I feel the presence of my dad’s spirit with me always, saying, “Carolyn, I love you. Always take care of yourself.” ———-
For more information about Carolyn and her book, Why Wait? The Baby Boomers’ Guide to Preparing Emotionally, Financially and Legally for a Parent’s Death, please visit her website CaregiverStory.com
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