Lauren is a caregiver to her mother and the voice behind the blog Little Spark of Madness.
Lauren’s mother Peggy was diagnosed with Alzheimers three years ago. Prior to her diagnosis, Lauren and her family started noticing changes in their mother, from personality changes to awkward social interactions and confusion about familiar tasks and places. Once it became apparent that she could no longer take care of herself, Lauren moved in with Peggy in 2019.
Peggy can do some things on her own, but she struggles. Lauren helps her with everyday activities like getting dressed, preparing meals, and driving her to the gym where she can participate in her favorite activities, like Zumba!
We spoke with Lauren about her experience as a caregiver, here’s what she had to say.
What made you seek a formal diagnosis?
When my mom was unable to locate the freeway near her home, one that she had taken hundreds of times before, I knew it was time for me to take her in for an assessment.
This happened the night my mom and I were going to a Jimi Hendrix Experience Concert to celebrate her birthday. The concert was being held about 30-minutes away, just one town over, so we made plans to meet before and drive over together. After the concert we drove back to where my car was parked to part ways for the evening. When she went to leave she couldn’t find the freeway entrance. We have lived here for thirty years and she was just 8 minutes from home and three exits away. At that moment, I knew there was something more going on.
What services have you been able to utilize from Redwood Caregiver Resource Center?
I first met Nancy Powers-Stone (Redwood CRC, Director) at a book club she runs at my local gym. Nancy has known my mom for many years and once she became aware of my mothers health, she approached me and suggested that I start a blog to share my story. I said yes right away and started my instagram account (@littlesparkofmadnessblog). That account has allowed me to build relationships, a community, and get my feelings out into the universe. It has been such a wonderful experience to see videos of others dancing with their parents or struggling to help them get dressed. It is so great to have a community and not have to explain my experience, they really understand me. I have made so many special connections and I am so glad Nancy inspired the idea.
In the past I traveled a lot – road trips, camping and hiking. Over the past 5 years traveling has become so much harder to coordinate and since the pandemic nearly impossible. While I am not taking advantage of respite care at the moment, prior to the pandemic I was able to arrange care through the Redwood Caregiver Resource Center. In the past I have tried to find others to care for my mom, but things consistently fell through and I was left worrying about my mom while away. Now that I am able to count on the resources at RCRC, traveling is an option (once it’s safe again).
RCRC has also offered consultations and information about setting up Medicare. Medicare can be so challenging and to know there is help is relieving.
As a caregiver, what resources would you like to have available?
There is a wonderful and free program available in my area called DASH. It is a driving program where volunteers drive seniors in the community around town. They will take you to get medications or to the grocery store. I would love to see this resource available in other communities.
I am also looking forward to retreats for Caregivers (when gatherings can be safely held). I look forward to the day I am able to connect with family caregivers who really see me and understand what I am going through. The retreat would give me the opportunity to get outside my daily routine as a caregiver, connect with people who understand my experience first-hand, and let loose and relax while knowing my mom is well taken care of for the weekend.
What do you do for self-care?
Hiking is my therapy and meditation, it is everything. Prior to the pandemic, hiking was a part of my regular routine, but restrictions and changes made it difficult for me to find time and the support I need for my mom so that I can go hiking.
After several months without being able to get out and hike, I was able to hit the trails around Thanksgiving and things just clicked. That day hiking reminded me how important it is for me to take time for myself. Since then, I make sure that I ask for help so I am able to go hiking a couple times a week.
What do you know now, that you wish you knew at the beginning of your caregiving journey?
Ask for help sooner.
I’m the oldest child in my family and have always been very responsible and independent. I can be controlling, especially when it comes to my mom. I know her best but not asking for help is detrimental to my own health. Knowing what I know now, I wish I had asked for help sooner. Sometimes you may feel like you don’t have any support but support is available. Reach out to your local CRC, it is so important to include them in your caregiving journey early on, it only does good things.
What else would you like to share with fellow caregivers?
Caregiving can feel so lonely and overwhelming. It’s so important to connect with people who can help you. Whether it’s talking to a friend, signing up for therapy, going on a hike, or sharing your experience on Instagram – it is so important to make connections and find a community.
Since beginning my caregiving journey, I started my own instagram account and blog to share my story with others. Connect with me online!
Lauren’s story is a great reminder about how important it is to ask for help. You do not have to go on this caregiving journey alone. Find your local CRC and reach out today!Share this post: