Who hasn’t heard the expression “hindsight is 20/20”? I think we all have. It certainly applies when it comes to family caregiving. Looking back on the last season of my beloved mother's life, I would have done some things differently— no doubt about it.
I’d like to share something personal with you. I often spend precious time these days reminiscing, thinking “If only I knew then what I know now about caregiving!” Like many former caregivers, I’m haunted by the notion that I might carry my guilt from those caregiving years to my grave. I don’t know about you, but when I’m drowning in my could-have, should-have, and would-have moments, I eventually force myself to come up for air to face the truth. My truth: I did my absolute best! And my best was based on what I knew and understood at the time.
As much as I would love to, I can’t go back and change anything. However, sharing my candid insights may make a difference for you— or someone you know. So, whether you’re are a current or future family caregiver or a curious reader, I hope you benefit from my list of seven things I wish I had known during my caregiving journey.
1. Wish I’d had the caregiving conversation earlier
The closest I came to having a caregiving conversation with Mama Peaches was brief dialogues based on preparation for her death. For as long as I could remember, Mama would sporadically remind me of her end-of-life wishes as
well as where to find the insurance policy. And for as long as I can remember, I would strategically orchestrate a dance around the subject, avoiding it as much as possible. Why should we talk about something like that? After all, Mama was a long way from dying— or so I convinced myself.
Mama was always reasonably healthy; therefore, we never really talked about the notion of caregiving. To us, life consisted of two phrases: living and dying. I, personally, had no idea that there could be three phases – living, needing care, and dying.
In hindsight, if I had known that those years of needing care were ahead of us, our conversations would have definitely been different. Not just a matter of life and death—both of us would have discussed her care.