Care Partners Resource

Care partners tour of duty

Becoming a care partner is similar to enlisting in the military. Both are a call to duty and similarly neither enlistee has any idea what their enlistment will require of them. However there are some striking differences as well. One clear difference is that before agreeing to enlist in military service a person usually takes time to weigh the pros and cons. The decision to enlist as a care partner or caregiver is often done with no time for thought. Other differences are;

  • no defined term for your tour of duty
  • you are not assigned to your position based on your occupational specialty
  •  there is no plan in place to move up the ranks
  •  and the biggest difference is usually this duty comes with no financial or medical benefits

My tour began with a phone call late one evening in July, 2001.  I answered the phone and heard my oldest brother saying words that I could not comprehend, “Mom is in the hospital” “She had a bad stroke.” The rest of the night was a blur, calls to my son telling him the news, to the airlines to catch a flight to LA, packing and then heading to the airport. All I knew was my mom’s brain was under attack and she needed me.

In my mind the decision to enlist had been made when I answered the phone. It was my duty to join the ranks and make sure Mom got back on her feet.  I don’t recall knowing who the enemy was: What is a stroke? How long my tour of duty would last: What is the recovery period?  I had no idea what a care partner or care giver was and yet unknowingly I had already enlisted to become one.

Once I arrived at the hospital basic training began immediately. The meetings with family, the doctors, nurses, therapists and social workers all began. It became clear to me that I needed to advance up the ranks quickly and take on a more active leadership role.  Days later when the bleeding stopped and mom was stabilized the true test of my enlistment became clear. Her life was never going to be the same and neither would mine.

The early stages of care partnering are foggy. I questioned what I had gotten myself into but it was too late to turn back now. I wonder how many young men and women who take the oath to serve our country feel the same overwhelming fear. My enlistment came with duties that I was not sure I could carry out as well as an assignment away from my family and home.

As time went on we celebrated battles that were won and  found new determination to forge ahead when any ground was lost. Mom and I  continued this strategy until my enlistment ended one day short of eight years when mom decided it was time to surrender and she quietly took her final breath while I sat by her side.

I realize that what I saw and dealt with during my tour of duty is different from what our military personnel must endure and in no way compares to what they must see on a battle field. But I too am left with the wounds from combat against the effects of a “brain attack” that took my mom’s independence.  Most family care partners and caregivers like me are left with both mental and physical scares from our time of service.

I have begun my journey back into the “civilian population” and I am reaching out to other care partners and care givers through my website www.carepartnersresouce.com.  My hope is to heal my battle scares by teaching others the successful strategies I learned during my tour of duty. 

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Care Partners Resource