Sharing the Lessons I Learned While Becoming a Caregiver

This post is made possible with support from AARP’s Disrupt Aging. All opinions are my own. I grew up helping my Mom care for my Grandparents, it was always something that just came natural. As I grew older I continued to do it and never thought that it was something out of the ordinary. It’s just what you do for Family, for your Parents, for your Grandparents. There was never a manual, a timeline, a list of expectations from both parties; age and caring just went hand-in-hand as time went on. Being raised in a Hispanic home and within the Hispanic culture, it’s expected to care for our elderly and our ill Family members. As time goes on the children become the caregivers and I am happy to be Sharing the Lessons I Learned While Becoming a Caregiver.

Sharing the Lessons I Learned While Becoming a Caregiver

At this point I was married and had 5 children of my own to care for. My Husband was deployed and I was helping my Mother care for her Husband who was ill. After a couple of years of living on his own, it was obvious that my Grandpa needed more help than he wanted to admit and accept. It was a difficult time and tasks but it was something that just needed to be done. We brought my Grandpa to my Mom’s house and without being asked, I assumed the everyday care for both as my Mother went to work. I would drive 45 minutes to her house every morning with all my children, drop them off at school by her house and care for my step-father and Grandfather until she came home in the evening.

Sharing the Lessons I Learned While Becoming a Caregiver

This went on for almost a year until my Grandfather started to have weekends in his home as he requested. He fell, broke his pelvis and legs and was hospitalized until further notice. Immediately I was assigned the task to stay with him in the hospital. My Grandfather was not only stubborn but he was also used to always getting his way. He was not staying alone and that was final. My husband took the kids home with him and I stayed the night. I stayed many nights, every night; and all day. After 2 weeks I was finally able to go home for a night as my Uncle stayed with him. The next day we were told of the next steps: a rehab facility where he would learn how to walk again.

Read our entire story here.

For 6 weeks I lived in the rehab/nursing home with my Grandfather. Our Family was not letting him stay alone because he was angry for being there, he was depressed for being there, he was lonely for being there. He was mean to the staff, uncooperative with everyone unless I was there to mediate. I saw my children from after-school until my husband would come get them at night Monday through Friday. On the weekends if my Mom and Aunt were able to stay with my Grandfather I would have the weekends with my Husband and children. It was something I was never prepared for but definitely ready from years of being the Family caregiver.


Sharing the Lessons I Learned While Becoming a Caregiver

Throughout the United States, family caregivers provide critical support to adults with a chronic, disabling, or otherwise serious health condition. Each year, about 40 million American adults provide support with basic functional (e.g., help with eating, bathing), household (e.g., meal preparation, help with shopping), and medical/nursing tasks to help individuals remain in their homes and communities for as long as possible.

Things I wish I knew before becoming a Caregiver:

  1. Have Patience.

    Not just for my Grandfather but for myself as well. He was often afraid, angry, emotional, incoherent at times, and always “in charge”; but I never realized that so was I. I blamed myself for every ounce of anger he let out, every scowl he made, every single thing that was not making him happy; had to be my fault. It wasn’t. I know now.

  2.  Speak, Listen, Share.

    Speak often with your person. If possible ask questions about preferences and requests. Time is something that we can not guarantee ourselves and being informed is priceless. Listen to their requests, fears, wishes, hopes. Write them all down, when making decisions this will help so much. Share your notes and findings with those on your “team”.

  3.  Be a Team.

    Every Doctor, Nurse, Therapist, Pharmacist, insurance coordinator is a part of your team. Your team will always be involved with the care and treatment of your person, make sure you share ALL of the information with every team member. Some things that a therapist may have suggested might have complications with a treatment that a Nurse is preparing; having everyone up to date with the information is crucial to having the best care.

  4.  Plan, Plan, Plan.

    Get a planner, write down every appointment, prescription, medication dosage, and outing. You never know when a meal or an activity will make a significant impact. It’s a great way to keep everything in one place.

  5.  Slow Down, Breathe.

    I thought I had to do everything as soon as possible and when I was done with those things; I had to find more things to do. It could have been making appointments, making meals, running errands, coming up with ideas for activities. I never knew when to stop, I couldn’t stop; if I stopped it meant I was quitting on my Grandpa. That’s false! I had a mental and emotional breakdown because I never thought I could slow down or stop for a moment. I realized just how important it was for me to care for myself as well.

  6. Self-love and Self-care.

    The lessons I learned from #5 were life changing! I learned that caring for myself was just as important, if not more; than caring for my Grandpa. Think about it, if I run myself to the ground while I am the sole caregiver for my Grandfather; who will be there to care for him? I learned that taking lunch breaks, breaks, nights off, even 5 minutes to walk away and breathe were all needed. I learned that I had to love myself enough to be able to love my Grandpa as best I could.

  7. Make time for fun!

    It sounds out of place, how can I make sure I have fun when I have to be his caregiver? It’s actually more needed than we think. Not having fun not only makes things seem boring, but also makes us dislike our tasks over time. Have fun for yourself and your person. Research and find community centers and Church groups that have events in your area. There are many different types of activities like dancing, bingo, book clubs, arts & crafts. If you want more challenge you can always both sign up to volunteer.


Sharing the Lessons I Learned While Becoming a Caregiver


Something else I never had were a list of resources. No one I could turn to for guidance or a list of resources and I was so burned out mentally that googling things was of no use for me. I wasn’t learning or understanding anything new. I am happy that AARP has made it so easy for caregivers by having everything in one place. From resources & hacks, to cost of care calculators & guides; everything at your fingertips! Click here to visit the AARP Family Caregiver Action Kit.

This AARP Caregiver Resources list is something I wish I knew about when I was caring for my Grandfather. I am so happy that I can share it with all of you and my Family and friends because it literally is sanity-saving!

Sharing the Lessons I Learned While Becoming a Caregiver

I’m Sharing the Lessons I Learned While Becoming a Caregiver.