Finding Hope & Joy In The Little Moments On the Caregiver Journey
Donna Garrett is like most caregivers. It wasn't something she set out to do, but when her parents needed help, she felt called to step up. Donna has taken care of two parents with memory impairment disorders. Her father sadly passed away from dementia complications, and now her mother is battling Alzheimer's Disease. Being a family caregiver is something that can seem overwhelming at times, but Donna shares a message of hope and joy.
Caring For a Father With Dementia
Donna and her family first started to notice her father's symptoms when the former carpenter was confused by tools he used regularly. Eventually, he would begin to not recognize his children or his spouse. While this is a heartbreaking condition, Donna says that there were still happy moments to be found. "He would always tell me he loved me, always, because he knew some day, he would forget."
Those moments of sharing love become far more precious when you learn your time is limited. This realization begins to help foster patience and understanding. "It wasn't always easy", Donna continues, "because the more memory he lost, the more frustrated he became."
"With dementia, you lose them twice. You watch their brain take them away from you. And then, you watch God take them away."-Donna Garrett, Caregiver
When Donna first learned of her father's diagnosis, she felt somewhat optimistic. "You think, 'no problem. we're going to be the ones that beat this.' Although logically, you know you're not going to be." Donna shares that her father enjoyed his music throughout his journey, and she has fond memories of listening to Willie Nelson, Hank Williams, and Johnny Cash with her father up until the end. Being able to share those moments were some of the best memories they had. "I am grateful, because I feel without the diagnosis, I don't know that we would have been so close."
As her father's illness progreessed, Donna found ways to communicate with him on a level he understood. "He would ask me how old I was. When I would tell him, he would say 'Well, you're older than me!' and to him, I was. So as soon as I learned I could conversate with him on that level, it made for a more peaceful journey."
Donna's mom also was present to assist with caregiving for her father. "They would have been married 64 years the February after my dad passed away, and she firmly believed it was her duty to care for her husband."
Caring For a Mother With Alzheimer's Disease
Through Donna's journey with her father, she has gained strength and knowledge for her mother's current journey with Alzheimer's. "Anytime our parents age, the roles change a bit", Donna explains, "but when they age through dementia, the roles change more quickly and progressively." Donna was thrust into an almost parental role with her mother shortly after her father passed away.
When it comes to the differences in how her parents journeys have gone, Donna says, "The way my mom displays is very different from the way my dad displayed." For her mother, the progression was more subtle. Her mom wanted to stay more isolated and not interact as much. Donna and her brother moved their mom into a smaller apartment, something they hoped she could manage. However, as Donna puts it "She never really came all the way back to being mom" after caring for her father.
Preserving The Legacy of Family Members With Alzheimer's & Dementia
Throughout the time Donna spent with us, she recounted many funny and happy memories she shared with her parents throughout their individual journeys. "My brother went and stayed with my dad, and Dad was asking 'where'd the lady go?'. My brother told him that I would return tomorrow, and my dad asked 'Well, why aren't we having a party then?'". These are the moments that bring the joy of the caregiving journey to life.
"I saved a voicemail recording of my dad singing happy birthday...but then when I switched phones, I lost it."-Donna Garrett, Caregiver
Preserving precious photos, videos and recordings is something Donna says is crucial to keeping the memory of her loved ones alive. Having one secure and private place to share these memories with loved ones is an incredible gift. That's why Donna loves CircleIt.
When you need to keep memories safe and share them with your loved ones, CircleIt is the world's only generational platform, built to help family caregivers preserve their family legacy.