Hello, and welcome to Geroinspired! I am fascinated with topics related to aging and elders, and hope to share relevant experiences and information in the future. For my first post, I would like to share my personal history and why I have chosen to become a gerontologist.
Formerly, I was a graphic designer. In mid-life, I decided to pursue a new career. I wanted to help people in a more personal way, so I went back to school to study psychology. I knew it would be a lengthy process towards my degree, but I was ready for a change. After my first semester, my father had a stroke and my family needed my assistance. Without hesitation, I decided to put my goals on hold to help care for my father.
My father had many small strokes before, but now he was losing his mobility. Although I did not know at the time, father was also developing vascular dementia. He was becoming increasingly angry and making inappropriate comments that were contrary to his usual self. In time, friends stopped visiting because my father's behavior made them uncomfortable.
The experience of being a caregiver was difficult, to put it mildly. I knew nothing about being a caregiver, and I was often overwhelmed and scared. I did not know where to turn for help, and I didn't know the types of services that were available. Fortunately, I was not alone. My husband was a tremendous support. He helped with daily care needs, such as toileting and bathing. He also provided emotional support on days when I was ready to give up. I don't know if I would have made it without him.
My mother, struggling with her own health issues, did whatever she could to help care for my father as well. As my father's dementia progressed, however, he constantly yelled at my mother. This in turn affected her health, and mother was having fainting spells due to rising stress levels. It was a hard decision, but eventually we decided to find a care facility for my father. We visited him everyday, and surprisingly, my parents' relationship improved. Father started to constantly thank mother for her love and support. (They had been married for over forty years, but he had never thanked her before)!
My father passed away in 2010, and the experience of caring for him changed my life. Being a caregiver was emotionally and physically demanding, but my love and appreciation for my father deepened. Looking back, I believe that being a caregiver for my father was an invaluable gift. I had the opportunity to be with my father everyday in his later years. I think if he were healthy, I might have taken him for granted and spent very little time with him.
Being a caregiver made me realize difficulties that people face as they grow older. Many older adults are challenged with physical and cognitive changes, and seeing such changes in my own father made it a personal matter. Additionally, I realized that ageism is rampant in our society. I witnessed others, including medical professionals, treating my father dismissively because of his condition. Such incidents motivated me to study gerontology. For me, working with older adults would be the best way to contribute and to grow. Currently, my interests include health, wellness and creativity in aging. Although many equate older age as a period of decline, there are countless older adults discovering untapped potentials and pursuing new goals despite having various age-related changes. I would like to learn through their examples on how to live fully every day and to not take life for granted. Thank you for taking the time to read this.