Susana’s Caregiving Story

How long were you a caregiver? Susana and her mother Maria
Susana and her mother Maria

I was a caregiver for 3 years. 

Who did you care for?

I cared for my mother.

What were some of the things you did for her?

I fed and bathed her, and helped her get dressed. I took her to doctor appointments, helped her exercise, prayed with her and talked to her. 

I also read books to her and showed her photo albums and magazines to help to mentally stimulate her. I handled all insurance matters and acted on her behalf on all medical issues.

What were some of the challenges in your caregiving journey?

Time management was a key challenge, as I also had four children still at home and in school. Trying to manage their needs and schedules with those of my mother was stressful. 

At one point, my mother did not recognize me as her daughter, but rather as her beloved older sister, Victoria. It was very sad for me. But at the same time, I loved that she was happy – believing she was talking to her older sister. She had been very close to her. 

What were the most rewarding aspects of caring for your mother?

Being able to keep my mother comfortable, pain free, and peaceful were the most rewarding aspects of caring for her. It wasn’t easy at the beginning because I had never done it before. I had to learn by trial and error what worked best for her and for the family.  

Once we got our routine organized, it became our mission to help her through her last journey in life in the best way possible. I felt that God gave me the grace and strength, and the “angels on earth” to help me accomplish this goal. 

My sister visited as often as she could, bringing treats and spending time with her. Mom also had a very lovely Eucharistic Minister that came with Communion once per week. Another special friend came to pray with her several times a week

She had grandchildren who loved her and talked to her, and two son-in-laws who made her laugh. She also had a very dedicated home health worker, who was compassionate and efficient to the end. With the help of all these special people, my mother was accompanied and loved until the very end of her life. 

What advice do you have for other caregivers?

Because this is a difficult and time-consuming effort, I encourage caregivers to reach out to others—family, friends, church community, and private and/or governmental agencies that are dedicated to helping caregivers. 

Many people want to help, even if it is only for a few hours. Draw up schedules for those willing to help. It is also very important to schedule time for yourself – to rest, to go away somewhere to relax and re-energize yourself. You will be a much better caregiver if you give yourself a break.

And lastly, ask God’s help for the gift of acceptance. Accepting that you are the caregiver and that the responsibility falls on you is a big step in doing this job well. You will feel the peace that is needed to move ahead.  My mother helped me raise my four daughters when she was strong and well, and now it was time for me to help her in this last, most blessed journey.