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CAREGIVING, Stories from a Caregiver

Love, Resiliency, and Renewal

| 14 Minute Read | Written by: Gerald Lloyd Wood

Summary

"Stories from a Caregiver" is a collection from the Meaning & Hope Institute that features the first hand experiences of family caregivers as they face moments of challenge and clarity along their journey to find meaning and hope.

“This series of short stories and the accompanying original art were created to document and share my journey as a dementia caregiver. If you are caring for a loved one who is challenged by Alzheimer’s or another dementia, may they resonate with you while seeking meaning in your caregiving work and a better, brighter and healthier future.”

– Gerald


Stories from a Caregiver: Love, Resiliency, and Renewal

Story # 1: A Few Things I’ve Learned

By: Gerald Lloyd Wood

Becoming my soulmate’s caregiver during her long illness with Alzheimer’s disease taught me lessons; heretofore, unknown. In this too, she made me a better person. All things considered, sharing almost fifty-six years before her passing was my most rewarding lifetime achievement. We raised three sons together. Now, their spouses and nine grandchildren are our treasured legacy. It is a family as beautiful and diverse as the brilliant stars in the night sky.

Gerald and Linda Wood
Photo by Sean Warren, Reliance TV

I’ve learned caregivers are asked to give back and expect nothing in return. Thus, our treasure to give is ourselves as unique and precious gems. A perfect caregiving example for me was Mother Teresa. At great personal sacrifice, she received international respect and Sainthood for helping the poorest of the poor in India. The trappings of her religious order, the Missionaries of Charity in Calcutta, were more important to her than the trappings of success.

Caregiving reshaped me late in life by reordering my priorities. I discovered that good things happen when caregivers step up while stepping aside at the same time. Although our focus becomes another person, we are important too and must make time for ourselves. Seeking respite from the rigors of caregiving is essential for healthy body, mind and spirit.


© 2022 Gerald Lloyd Wood. All rights reserved. This story and accompanying art are used with permission of the author.

Don’t miss Gerald’s next article

I’m deeply indebted to Dr. Pauline Boss, author of Loving Someone Who Has Dementia, whose book helped me through my most desperate times. Her ideas helped me imagine new hopes and dreams. They will for you too. I learned from Dr. Boss that dementia caregivers have a unique challenge she called ambiguous loss.” Her explanation for why we grieve the loss of loved ones who are here physically but gone mentally at the same time was life-changing.

Hence, I became a writer as a way to understand my feelings during my spouse’s illness. Finding myself floundering at times, writing one-page stories became a form of catharsis when she slept. Sharing copies of them in support groups found eager audiences from those seeking answers like us.

Celestial 1
This award-winning abstract painting relates to the banquet feast that is now my new life.

Another key I learned from Dr. Boss was to re-invent myself. After my wife passed, I took classes and found new potential as an abstract expressionist artist. Thus, painting has given me a new lease on life with multiple opportunities to be engaged with a host of new friends and art shows. I’ve discovered a banquet feast that is my new life. Oh, the joy!

Finally, we learned in support groups that dementia care is less stressful for couples who interact with each other more creatively. Simply put, normal responses don’t always work.

With a loving heart and in good faith, redirect, concede, delay, agree, walk away, go to the bathroom, distract, obfuscate, don’t criticize, reassure, and promise with your fingers crossed. Repeat as necessary.


Ready to Find Meaning and Hope?

Finding Meaning and Hope is a free program for family caregivers based on the book, Loving Someone Who Has Dementia: How to Find Hope while Coping with Stress and Grief by Dr. Pauline Boss. This which features videos with caregivers like Gerald and facilitator guided discussions.


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