Parkinson’s and the Caregiver’s Journey | 11
In this episode of When Life Gives You Parkinson’s we explore the role of the caregiver. Seeing as I’m a person with Parkinson’s and not a caregiver, my caregiver and wife Rebecca is featured prominently along with my co-host Niki Reitmayer and other caregivers Noel MacDonald and John Parkhurst. At the end of the episode, I chime in with a quick interview with Dr. Robert Duff about what caregivers need to do to make sure they’re taking care of themselves. At the end of the episode, Niki mentions a few resources for caregivers from Parkinson Canada which can be found here:
Caregiving Webinar https://vimeo.com/168664929
Caregiver “Am I in Balance?” worksheet https://www.parkinson.ca/wp-content/uploads/Am-I-in-balance-taking-care.pdf
Aside from being a wife, caregiver, mom, home school teacher, family chef and chauffeur, Rebecca is a writer. In fact, she’s a great writer. This week, for the podcast notes, I invited her to put pen to paper to express in her own words what it means to be a caregiver to someone with Parkinson’s.
The following is written by Rebecca Gifford, caregiver and wife of Larry Gifford
It happens all the time, all over the world. Two people love each other. You build a relationship, a partnership, and ultimately share a commitment and a life. You grow and make plans, hopeful for the future. Somewhere in the back of your head you know that something could happen that feels like the universe having a good chuckle at your expectations. It’s easy to dismiss these thoughts as “not right now” or “perhaps when we’re older.”
Then one day you hear a faint belly laugh.
One of you is diagnosed with something frightening, and everything changes. Of course everything shifts for the person with the disease, but the changes are as profound for those closest to them.
Just as all families who are faced with a diagnosis do, we discovered a new path the day Larry was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. As his partner and wife, when it appeared before me I took his hand so we can walk it together.
Sometimes it is joyful and beautiful—the opportunity to tell our story, to make a difference and connect with a remarkable community; the opportunity to offer life-shaping lessons to our son; a chance to clarify, simplify and rebalance our life.
Sometimes it is sad or infuriating or frightening—grieving our pre-PD life, seeking balance in an ever-changing situation, adjusting to Larry’s uneven physical and energetic capacities, shifting the balance of our parenting roles, and facing endless uncertainty. Larry and I are reexamining and redefining our roles in our marriage, knowing we likely will need to do this again and again as the disease progresses. We are re-prioritizing our daily lives, while also discovering that often self-care means we can’t meet the expectations of those around us, including each other. And on and on.
Those who have been partners of people with Parkinson’s for much longer than I have know that the above lists will get much longer before the food truck pulls away. For us and so many, the growing pains are real.
We all know that everyone’s journey is different. But as partners and most trusted caregivers, we have a front row seat for our loved one’s experience. We may not be experiencing the disease directly, but we have an important role. We aren’t just helpers, healers and emotional support. We are the witnesses, the observers. We see their highs and lows, are inspired by their strength and humor, and are empathetic to their worries and grief. We are sitting beside them as they drive the rollercoaster, an extra pair of eyes and ears on the track. This can be just as challenging, but also just as enlightening.
We can and are supporting them and choosing the spot beside our dear ones. Our journey isn’t easy, but it’s full of all the thrills and lessons that a rich life brings.
Follow me, Larry Gifford
Follow Co-host and Producer Niki Reitmeyer
Thank you to Noel MacDonald, Marty Gifford, John Parkhurst,
Dr. Robert Duff from The Hardcore Self Help Podcast
You Tube: https://www.youtube.com/duffthepsych
And special thanks to my wife and caregiver Rebecca Gifford.
For more info on our partner Parkinson Canada head to http://www.parkinson.ca/
The toll free hotline is 1-800-565-3000
Or follow them on Twitter
Parkinson Canada @ParkinsonCanada
Parkinson Society BC @ParkinsonsBC
Dila Velazquez – Story Producer
Rob Johnston – Senior Audio Producer