Caregivers Can Be Each Other’s Best Friend


One of the best Christmas presents I received this past holiday season was a phone conversation with my "best childhood friend." After more than 40 years, we reconnected several years ago (thanks to modern technology), and were amazed to find that we fell back into step after all of those years.

As the daughter of a naval officer, Shari and her family moved next door to us when we were both about ten years old. Circumstance may have brought us together back in the 60's, but we quickly became "best friends." We recently reconnected through a long weekend and quickly realized there was a bond in our friendship that didn't vanish once we became adults. We refer to each other as our "best childhood friend."

Shari and I live hundreds of miles apart now, so we stay in touch through social media and occasional phone calls. Our last conversation was during the Christmas holidays when we began talking about our aging parents.

She shares the same concerns for her elderly father as I do for my parents. Through social media and my blogs, she is well aware of the challenges I face. Shari respects my desire to keep my parents at home for as long as I can. Knowing my personality and reading between the lines, she changed her tone of voice; I knew she had something important to say:

"If you have to resort to caring for your parents outside of your home, don't feel like you've failed. Don't be hard on yourself. You've done everything you can to keep them with you."

Shari's timing couldn't have been more on target. How did she know the stress I had been feeling? How did she sense the uncertainty with which I was now wrestling on almost a daily basis? How could she know that I was pushing myself to be the perfect daughter who wouldn't disappoint her parents?

"We both are controllers," Shari said, lightening her tone of voice. It was as if she knew what I was thinking. "We want to be in control!" Maybe that's one of the reasons we were such good friends. Sharing personalities helped her understand my motives.

But Shari turned serious once again. "Suffering is a part of life," she told me. No one's life can always be rosy, no matter what our society, popular songs or the movies sway us to believe. But suffering can be a GOOD thing. Suffering is, in fact, necessary—if we really want to know what it is like to live.

Even though I should have known better, it took my dear friend Shari to bring me to my senses. The stress I had been feeling—like a cloudy veil—faded away as I digested her words. I will post her wisdom where I can see it daily. I am grateful to have such as friend as Shari, and hope that every caregiver finds someone who can be their own "Shari."

Like so many really good gifts, this present wasn't bought at a store or wrapped in pretty paper. This was a gift from the good heart of a priceless friend who helped me through one of life's most challenging—and (possibly) most rewarding—times.

Ann Marie writes about the challenges and rewards of caring for her aging parents—both of whom have lived with Ann Marie and her husband for 11 years. She is also the owner of A.Mecera Communications, which she founded in 1985. Her shop develops and implements marketing solutions for non-profit and for-profit companies and organizations.

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All of my close friends had slowly disappeared from my life once I started to help my parents six years ago.... I just didn't have time to be with those friends or I was just too tired to go places with them or even to telephone them. None of those friends could relate because they weren't caregivers for their own parents, topics were limited :P

Then I started doing volunteer work at a local hospital on Saturday mornings [it was the shift that my parents use to work before they retired].... a couple months later a young woman became my desk mate at the hospital information desk... I first thought what will we have in common as she is 20 years younger, born and raised in the Middle East.... then she opened up about the struggles of dealing with her in-laws who still lived in the old country but who were visiting here for an extended time....

BINGO, we had a real connection... and every Saturday for the past two years we caught up with the trials and tribulations of dealing with elderly parents and the high drama from her husband's siblings whom had different ideas on how to deal with the parents.

When I recently had surgery, she was texting me daily to see how I was doing. She was hoping for a quick recovery as she really missed *our gossip*, and I was the only person she could really vent about everything. That was a good feeling, that was a good friend :)
I love this. I wish i did have a friend like Shari! I have a handful of friends who i worked with for 30 years and whom ive been through birth of our children, deaths, and so many of life's greatest ups and downs. I retired in August of this year at 58 due to our department being moved to Phoenix from Tulsa. My mother is 86 and has early/moderate stage dementia. My children are 24 and 30 and i have 2 grandchildren. My fathee passed 30 years ago and of my 2 older sisters, one passed 10 yrs ago and the other has cancer, has had 2 strokes, and needs care herself. I stuggle with wanting to keep mom independent in her home, yet knowing that the road ahead will be wrought with difficulty for me as her caregiver and knowing eventually i probably wont be able to keep her out of a facility. Not having anyone close who can relate to my circumstances, even though my friends love and care about me, is the most difficult. They have husbands and siblings, and have not cared for an elderly parent with dementia outside a facility. Its quite a lonely feeling dealing with the responsibility and fears without someone close to you who can relate. I plan on joining a support group soon so im hoping to connect with someone who shares my situation and with whom i can lean on and also support along this journey.
I also care for mom + dad. Mom kidney dialysis, dad mod to severe dementia. I do it all for them. Now dad wants to sleep all day. My older sister who lives close to my folks visits 10 min a day, doesnt lift a finger but boy she talks talks talks, tells my dad he better not sleep all day. I know he needs someone 3 times a week to work with him. He wont go to the mens group, now social. But I cant handle both parents responsibilities and sit with dad all day. No one supports getti.g help. Any suggestions. I need to get back to caregivers support groups. Thanks Bob.