I Won't Let This Get Me Down

I Won’t Let This Get Me Down

July 22, 2020

Having worked in the airport management industry for 25 years, Francey felt burned out and hoped to change careers, but then her mother was diagnosed with dementia. Francey shares how difficult it was to catch on to the early signs of her mom’s condition living so far away, the surprising aspects of dementia, and how COVID-19 has made life a lot less balanced. This is Francey’s Story.

As told to Open Caregiving and lightly edited to enhance readability while preserving the author’s voice.

Getting to know the caregiver

Hi, my name is Francey. I’m a Gen X woman who moved from New Mexico to Florida to care for my mother who has dementia.

What did your life look like when you became a caregiver?

When I became my mom’s caregiver, I was living in Santa Fe, New Mexico and was between jobs after 25 years in the airport management industry. I felt burned out and was seriously thinking about changing careers. I am single with no children, and had some savings, so I was taking some time to figure out what I wanted to do next. Then Mom was diagnosed. We had always agreed that if and when the time came, I would be the one of my siblings to take care of her. So I moved to Florida, bought a house and moved her in with me.

Who did you care for and what prompted their need for care?

Mom and I have always been very close. Over the years, we’ve vacationed together, and she has almost always come to visit me for months at a time, wherever I happened to be. She would even come to work with me.

Because I always lived far away, I didn’t catch on that her memory was slipping. We spoke almost every day, but not being around her all the time, I couldn’t notice that whatever she was telling me about her activities was not entirely accurate. My sister, my niece, and Mom’s friends who saw her frequently all had been noticing some cognitive decline for a while. Eventually, she was diagnosed with cerebral vascular dementia.

What was a memorable learning?

Dementia is not just forgetfulness, and it is not a part of normal aging. I thought dementia was an out of touch person staring glassy eyed in her own reality. That is certainly the end stage of dementia, but there are several stages, and the early stages can be hard to identify sometimes. All of Mom’s social skills were and still are in place.

If you don’t know she has dementia, and don’t spend much time with her, you’d just think she forgets things, like what she ordered in a restaurant. But it is more insidious than that. And it is these early stages that can make the person living with dementia so much more vulnerable to those who would take advantage of them.

What surprised you about caregiving?

It was very challenging in the first few months to convince some of my family that Mom needed care, or the type of care she needed. I wasn’t expecting that.

How do you try to balance being a caregiver while caring for yourself?

Well, pre-COVID-19, Mom and I had a full life with her friends and her grandkids (my nieces). We visited a lot and they sometimes would give me some free time of my own by taking her for a while. We can’t do that anymore.

I also started a blog to try to not only help others with my lessons learned, but as a creative outlet.

What resource would you recommend to caregivers?

Get in touch with other caregivers. There are many ways, either in-person support groups in your community or in cyberspace. I am in several Facebook groups, many of them closed groups, for caregivers, specifically for those caring for loved ones with dementia. It has been an absolutely invaluable network for me to hear that I’m not alone, or experiencing anything in a vacuum.

What advice would you give to caregivers?

Don’t take things so hard. Don’t let it get you down. Just get on with it.

Where to find Francey Jesson

I share many of my own stories and thoughts on my blog, The Jesson Press, which I named after the printing business my father ran when I was a kid.

 

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