Caregiver Voices is a series I started with all of you in mind. It is meant to give you, the caregiver, the ability to share your story.
At times, caregiving can feel quite isolating and lonely. There are times when I feel like I am the only one who experiences the emotional roller-coaster that comes with being a caregiver.
But then I am reminded by so many of you that I am far from alone. All the positive comments and feedback I’ve received since starting this blog, have inspired me to create this series. In the age of technology and social media, there is no reason we should feel as though we are all in this by ourselves. Every story is different. But we also share similarities.
So without further ado
Here is Bonnie’s story:
How a Stroke and Hearing Loss Changed My Family’s Life Forever
by Bonnie McConaughy
My caregiving story begins in the summer of 2003 when my stepdad had a stroke that left the right side of his body paralyzed. I was just about to turn 15 at the time. As you can imagine, there was a lot of upheaval for our family. We had been living in a town-home so we had to move. He was bringing in the primary income so our living drastically changed in that moment. He had to go through a lot of physical therapy and see plenty of doctors after his stroke. Thankfully he can get around pretty well for someone with paralysis but there are still a lot of challenges for him.
Not long after his stroke, my mom lost all of her hearing for a period of time. It had happened before but not to this extent or for as long as it did this time. Eventually some of it came back, but she ended up needing hearing aids permanently.
Even with those hearing aids, her hearing still isn’t great. I am her ears when we are out and about, that’s the way we describe it to everyone. We are both thankful that we can still have girl chats and other things though, and that we haven’t absolutely had to learn sign language. We have learned some words in ASL and really should learn more of it sometime! She does okay with most women’s voices but it’s hard for her to hear men especially with their deep voices.
To top it all off, in early 2013 my mom injured her back while trying to help my stepdad up after a fall. She had injured her back once when I was about eight or nine years old, but she had more or less gotten back to normal after that. This time was very much different. She ended up needing two back surgeries and a neck surgery between October 2013 and November 2014. I was her “nurse” after these surgeries, taking care of her incisions and keeping an eye on things, helping her do what she wasn’t allowed to do, and whatever else needed to be done. Her back still gives her trouble and she has been diagnosed Degenerative Disc Disease which has caused some of these issues as well as the herniated disc she had when she injured her back.
While I am not a full-time caregiver, I do a lot of things for my parents that they can’t do or simply to make their lives easier. In the early days after my stepdad’s stroke, I would help prepare meals for him and make sure he was okay while my mom was out or at work.
These days my daily tasks include:
- taking their dog out about five times a day or more
- feeding her in the mornings
- taking the trash out
- doing the dishes as needed
- moving things around or doing heavier lifting when necessary.
Some of these things are because I live with them basically for free, so I do what I can to help out on that front, but a lot of these things are hard for my mom to do and impossible for my stepdad to do without hurting himself.
The care I provide for them isn’t super involved, but it can feel like I’m on call a lot of the time. I have had to learn when to say no, or when to say wait so I could do something non-urgent later on. As caregivers, we need to take care of ourselves too or else we won’t be able to take care of anyone else.
That is something that I have had to learn as well. From 2013-2016, I was also babysitting my two youngest nephews anywhere from 30-50 hours per week, and doing that and taking care of everyone else was exhausting and draining in so many other ways too.
I had to learn to say “no” more often or I wouldn’t have been able to survive.
Juggling everyday life as an individual, with everything I had going on, as well as taking care of others in my family took a lot out of me. I am an introvert and a Highly Sensitive Person, and I have my own chronic pain to deal with, which made this all even more of a challenge and still does to this day. Learning about myself and my limits has helped quite a bit to be able to take care of others without sacrificing myself along the way. Taking care of our families is important and many of us take pride in it, but there is no shame in admitting that it can be hard at times.
Make sure to take care of yourself as well as you are taking care of your loved ones!
Author Bio: Bonnie McConaughy is the owner and founder of Inspire the Best You (www.inspirethebestyou.com), where she writes about weight loss, healthy living, self-love, and personal growth. If you are interested in those topics, stop by and read her blog! She is also a freelance and ghostwriter (www.bmcconaughy.weebly.com). You can also connect with Bonnie via Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest.
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Disclaimer: Everything I share is solely based on my personal experience and is for informational purposes only. This page contains affiliate links. For more information, please view my disclosure policy.