Caregiver: Theba Lolley
Location: Little Rock, AR
How did you become a caregiver?
“I work at THV 11 in the marketing dept. I’ve been there 24 years. I just turned 56. My caregiving journey started first with my mom probably about 5 years when I started noticing a difference in cognitive memory. One of the first things that happened to me was I went into a slow panic because I didn’t know what was going on. My mom and dad never dealt with Alzheimer’s in their family. Their parents died of cancer. It was a new term and understanding for me. So I was in a slow panic and I began to reach out to some of my friends and getting feedback from them and realizing what I didn’t know and what I did not have in place. Which really is where the panic came from. I just did not understand that I needed to make sure that paper work needed to be in order, I didn’t know how fast the disease worked and so I began to be very productive.”
How do you care for yourself?
“Well I have a great group of friends. I call them my tribe. They are quite understanding. A lot of the time, because of sun downers, they come here. Of course, they want to make sure mom is completely protected so they wear a mask. We usually go to another room and spend time together, have dinner, or I can steal away and go have dinner with someone (outside of course!)”
What was your biggest challenge?
“The first, was me coming to terms with my own fear, anger that it was happening and the understanding that I was in the beginning process of dealing with some grief. The second, was getting organized, feeling on top of things. What I always tell people is (I really fought this in the beginning, but it makes sense) they do start to act like children, but they are not children. Find a way to communicate where you understand that their reasoning is so limited, and it will continue to be limited, but you can still talk with respect and kindness. I thought the biggest challenge in the beginning [was] because they are afraid and they are not able to articulate, the are really observing their loved ones. If I seemed nervous, it was really upsetting to [my dad]. You just kinda die to self as much as you can and then find those groups to find yourself. The relationship is drastically changing, and it has flipped upside down. You can learn a lot about yourself very quickly when you decide to make those changes that keep love and compassion and kindness at the forefront of this relationship. Ultimately their fear and their confusion is going to outweigh mine.”
What has been rewarding?
“I had to come to terms very quickly with my own fear, arrogance, ego, anxiety, and I had to deal with them very quickly so I could be the best caretaker to my parents. First and foremost, trusting that god was with me the entire time and knowing that I had the resources. I think that when you realize that you have bypassed where you were, that’s so rewarding. There were nights I cried myself to sleep, there nights I was so afraid, there nights I was checking the nest cam for my dad like every night and I could not sleep but then I found a rhythm. “