What I learned from Miss Yvonne was invaluable: attitude really, truly is everything. During an evening visit at her home, we were enjoying a glass of her favorite vino. As I marveled at her strength and the joy she radiated, I was compelled to ask, “How do you do it?” She said, “Caring for a loved one is a decision you make. It’s about perspective. Every day you wake up and remember that ultimately, it was your decision to do this. You knowingly, willingly, take on the responsibility.” Her dimples deepened as she smiled at me, coaxing me toward recognition of my situation and acceptance of it. “Your loved one didn’t ask to be in the position that they’re in,” she said. “I always think about how I would want to be treated if I were in their shoes.”
Late that evening, as I lay in bed and reflected on those words, I imagined, with a mindset of that nature, I could become a much better caregiver to my mother. It was clear to me with the right attitude it is pretty easy to do anything. And when you do what you do consciously and out of love, then it is made so much easier.
Miss Yvonne also said she did not believe in having pity parties, not for herself and not for her loved ones. She never looked at her loved ones through the lens of their afflictions. It was really a self-serving attitude. If she didn’t pity them, she most certainly could not pity herself.
Years later, I could look back and recognize something remarkable had transpired. Miss Yvonne had been guiding me on the caregiver’s journey, moving me along from helplessness to recognition of what the task was, recognition of the fact I had already signed up for it, and recognition of what I needed to be and do to succeed in it.
Time for Yourself Is Non-Negotiable
Miss Yvonne’s one and only brother was her best friend and she loved him fiercely. She felt it was her honor to care for her brother, Isaac. Though wheelchair bound, Isaac was a strong man, with a chiseled face and a great big heart. He was socially conscious, loved politics and was concerned about humanity as a whole.
Her mom, Miss Lilly, was and had always been someone special. Even with dementia, she always had an endearing smile on her face. Miss Lilly was a lady of style and charm. Petite and loving, she always had a kind word for everyone. She affectionately referred to me and many others as “Sugah.”
Miss Yvonne also exemplified how important it was to do the things you still loved to do while caregiving. She understood the need for respite care and creating time for herself. She regularly got together with her old friends, went out to lunch, saw Broadway plays, and took in her favorite musicians when they came to town. She loved shopping and dining out and did those things as often as she could. Miss Yvonne always knew how to have a good time, and being a caregiver wasn’t going to change that. She even had a group of friends who loved taking annual cruises to the Caribbean with her. She grew up connected, and stayed connected, no matter what challenge life threw her way. For Miss Yvonne, caregiving wasn’t a burden. It was an honor.
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