Two Peas in a Pod

Two Peas in a Pod

Tara's kids were finally old enough to take care of themselves, and she was looking forward to going back to work. She put those plans on hold when her mother-in-law had a fall. Tara became her caregiver and quickly learned how important it was to empathize with her, get her children involved in caregiving, and carve out time for herself to recharge. This is Tara'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 Tara. I’m a Gen X woman from Florida. I am caring for my mother-in-law, who I call “Mom” and lives with us and our kids.

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

At the time Mom moved in, all three of our kids were living at home, including our 19-year-old daughter. When we moved Mom in we “traded” Mom into Britty’s room, and Britty went to live at Mom’s (her grandmother’s) condo.

I was super excited that all my kids were old enough to take care of themselves and I would have more time to get back to work. But not so fast. Now I have to give Mom pills 3 times a day, monitor doctors and prescriptions, and make sure she gets enough food and drink.

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

She is my mother-in-law, and my kids love their Grandma Linda. My son especially loves her to bits!

I became a caregiver after Mom fell and laid on the floor alone in her apartment for days. She first came to our house “for a little bit,” but fell again. She was admitted to the hospital for a week, followed by two weeks in rehab. Mom also has dementia, which has taught me a lot about how to handle caregiving for someone with cognitive decline.

What was a memorable learning?

Oh my gosh, this one! My biggest learning came when Mom was still in rehab. She was having delusions and wanted to get a grill to move into her bedroom to cook on when she came home.

I understand now that she was just scared and confused, but I argued with her like she was still normal. Looking back, I would have just played along and suggested she get a little grill so there would be enough room.

What surprised you about caregiving?

How much my son helps his Gram. They are two peas in a pod and he is the most compassionate to her!

It is so funny, my husband and I think of caring for Mom as another chore, but my son just thinks she is nice because she gives him candy bars and sits with him in the morning and watches YouTube with him (she is really on her iPad, but they are there together). I think because we adopted our kids from foster care, my son likes having a family and appreciates us more than a typical 12-year-old boy would! We are lucky to have gotten such a loving young man!

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

I struggle with this a lot, especially with being stuck at home all the time now during COVID-19. My husband got me a little chair for the corner of my bedroom. Now I spend a few evenings a week alone, getting a wee bit of “me time” watching crime shows!

I also started a blog talking about caregiving that helps me “vent” about all the craziness.

What resource would you recommend to caregivers?

I would watch this video: Experience 12 Minutes In Alzheimer’s Dementia. It helps to show what it is like to have dementia. This made me so much more compassionate!

What advice would you give to caregivers?

Be patient, she isn’t doing it on purpose!

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

If your loved one has explosive diarrhea, get some gloves. It makes cleaning things up so much less horrible! Oh and get some good smelling cleaner so when you are cleaning up, there is a pretty scent. ?

Where to find Tara Jacobsen

I share many stories, like the one I just mentioned, on my blog Artsy Fartsy Life.

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