Nancy from Utah

I saw my role as a caregiver emerging as she sat at my dining room table. A portable file of medical bills and prescription drug information lay over the table top. My aging mother with touch-tone phone in hand was attempting to navigate a phone tree system to order prescription medications. Before she could push the correct button we heard the automated phone system say “I’m sorry, I didn’t recognize your choice.” Over the next several hours, I noticed nothing had changed on the dining room table, and yet, I realized everything was about to change for me. I was 35 years old.

During the ensuing years, I accompanied my mother to a variety of health-related appointments, managed her medications, financial affairs, and medical bills. I found myself rushing around so I could then slow down when I was with her, trying to do the best I could for her with little or no information. Mom was aggravated with her declining health and frustrated that she was losing control of her life. She vacillated between being grateful for our help and the impression that her adult children were sometimes all against her.

My own life was also in transition. My much-too-young husband was diagnosed with a terminal illness, three of our four daughters were married, and I became a young grandmother. I continued to work full-time in my home office in order to have the flexibility I needed to be everything to everyone. I learned the hard way that I was not superwoman and spent a week in the hospital due to sheer exhaustion.

Five years later my husband died. Mom lived another two years. During the almost 20 years of caring for her she went from living in her own home to living with family members, an assisted living facility, and finally skilled nursing care.

“Someday you will thank me” she used to tell me. And I do now - every single day. Especially as I take those tough life lessons of caregiving along with subsequent increased scholarship and utilize them in my encore career as an aging services professional. Her influence continues to be felt as I assist current care partners through their experiences, teach others about resources I never knew of, how to work together as families, and how to care for themselves in the process. Through all the ups and downs of my caregiving experience, I count it as one of my greatest privileges to have been called her daughter and caregiver. Thank you, Mom. You prepared me well over the years to now advocate for other caregivers in the state of Utah.