Taking care of an older parent can be a blessing, but at times frustrating. There are ups and downs, good times and bad. Through her personal and professional experience, Marti Dizon with Homewatch CareGivers is more than familiar with the struggles of being a caregiver for aging parents. However, she quickly discovered being their caregiver can be a joy and can build more meaningful relationships.
“My parents were divorced and growing up I was never really close with my mom. However, I became caregivers for both parents. My mom passed away two years ago from Alzheimer’s. For seven years, she lived with me, and because of her Alzheimer’s, we actually became closer, and I never imagined that would have happened,” said Dizon.
When her mom first started exhibiting symptoms of the disease, Dizon didn’t know it was Alzheimer’s. Instead, she thought, because of their past relationship, her mom was saying and doing things out of spite.
“We would have shouting matches because we would get frustrated with each other. I first started noticing something was off when my daughter, who was five at the time, my mom, and I were putting together beetle bug bags for the yard. My daughter was able to do it, but my mom couldn’t. We took her to her doctor, who gave her a quick Alzheimer’s test. The test didn’t show anything, and they said she was fine. Knowing something was still off, I called a doctor that still made house calls. She came over and diagnosed my mom in no time,” said Dizon.
Before starting her business, Homewatch CareGivers, Dizon’s initial reaction was to correct her mom when she couldn’t remember or got things mixed up. Dizon’s mindset changed after opening the company and participating in Alzheimer’s training.
“My mom and I would battle it out. Both of us would get stressed because we didn’t understand each other. Then, I attended the Pathways Memory Courses, which was Homewatch CareGivers’ brand of Alzheimer’s training, in San Francisco. From this experience, I learned so much about the disease. It was really a light bulb moment,” said Dizon.
Thanks to the training, Dizon discovered she needed to step into her mom’s world. To do this, Dizon stopped correcting and started comforting her mom by sharing and experiencing her thoughts.
“It was futile to try and get Mom to remember. Instead, the best way to get along was for me to change. If she asked, ‘Is my car okay?’ Well, we actually sold her car, but I would reply, ‘Yes, it is locked up in the driveway.’ My daughter once said I was lying to her, but I wasn’t. I was reassuring her, making things peaceful, and experiencing life along with her. We became best friends and went from this very stressful relationship to a great, happy, and loving one. In her last couple of years, she couldn’t remember anyone except for me and would say, ‘That’s my daughter.’ It was very sweet,” said Dizon.
Dizon has begun using this same tactic with her father. At 93 years old, her father doesn’t have dementia and has a great memory, but his body is failing him.
“My father is in remission for cancer and sits in a chair with a seven-foot television, soda, chips, Roku, a flight stimulator program, and Netflix surrounding him. I check in on him in the morning and afternoon. We have Home Health and Homewatch CareGivers come and help. But this is how he is the happiest and wants to live out his life and, at 93 years old, why shouldn’t he? It is important for us to always think of ways to accommodate our older parents, their needs, and how they want to live,” said Dizon.
According to Dizon, it can be hard to care for aging parents. People often get stuck in the reality of the situation and struggle with losing a parent. But she offers this piece of advice to help change this mentality: step out of your comfort zone and into your parents’ lives.
“If there was one piece of advice I could pass along to others, I would say figure out how to help your parents’ live their lives in the most productive and happiest way. It might not be the way you wish, but they are still alive and still living. Why make things stressful when you go against how they want to live? Instead, let them live peacefully and comfortably. It’s the best gift we can give our parents,” said Dizon.
Homewatch CareGivers is located at 110 Hepler Street in Kernersville. Call (336) 455-9967 or visit online at hwcg.com. Be sure to follow them on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, and Google+.