Patti LaFleur is a current lover, former Kindergarten teacher and former caregiver to her best friend…her Mom. She is someone that puts 100% into every role that she does and when it came to caring for her Mom, that showed. We had the chance to interview Patti and learn about her caregiving journey.
Share your caregiving journey – how did it began and how is it going.
My Mom got diagnosed over 7 years ago right before I got engaged. I was in grad school, working full time and she got her diagnosis. I was devastated and honestly handled things the way I do best…I avoided. I wish I had stepped in to support more then, but I just didn’t have the capacity. Fast forward to three years ago and I began to notice that my Dad was struggling with caring for my Mom more than I had realized. That is when I stepped in to help my parents on a daily/every other day basis. Six months later my Mom moved in with me and I became her full-time care partner. For the first year, I was working full time and caring for my Mom full time. I quit my job last August and became her full-time care partner. Sadly, my Mom passed a month ago and I have been navigating what this means for me as a former care partner and a grieving daughter.
What do you know now, that you wish you knew then?
When I first started caring for my Mom, I wish I would have known how important it was to find a support system. Caring for a loved one with dementia/Alzheimer’s is a very time-consuming and heartbreaking process. It takes more from you than you know, so having people to support you is important but also having people that get it is also SO important.
When you first started your caregiving journey, what were some of the most challenging obstacles that you had to overcome?
Balancing my time. I really struggled initially (partially due to the pandemic) between caring for my Mom and finding time for myself. I needed to balance her safety (as an at-risk individual) during a global pandemic. In addition, it was a big shift once I quit my job to care for her. I lost my identity as a Kindergarten teacher and very quickly gained a new role that I was not necessarily ready for. All while trying to love myself, find myself and care for myself. It was a very hard obstacle to navigate all these different dynamics with someone who needed so much support and I loved so dearly.
As a former caregiver, what resources would you like to see available?
More resources for mid to late-stage dementia/Alzheimer’s. There were a lot of resources, medications and activities in my area for early-stage dementia but there were very few resources for people living in the later stages. In addition, I would love to just see more of a holistic and positive approach to dementia care. There are very few resources out there that give practice advice and even then a lot of things are focused on what people living with dementia CAN’T do. Let’s talk about what they CAN DO.
What did you do for self-care?
- Took breaks: I found a spot where my Mom could do respite stays and I took advantage of the time to love on myself.
- Journaling: I used this as a tool to decompress, get my thoughts out there and have a safe space.
- Also stepped away when we were having a really tough day. Gave my permission to go for walks, breathe and take a minute when needed.
Can you tell us about www.carepartnerpatti.com?
Care Partner Patti was our website. It’s where I shared our story, adventures, had a blog and also “sold’ my Mom’s art for dementia/Alzheimer’s awareness. It is still active for selling her art and a space that allowed for her art that we did on an almost daily basis to have a purpose.
What else would you like to share with fellow caregivers?
Find support and give yourself the opportunity to take breaks as you need!
Where can people find you?
- Instagram: misspatticake
- TikTok/Facebook: carepartnerpatti
- Twitter: carepatti
We are so grateful to Patti for sharing her story. Just like Patti did, it is not uncommon to feel like you’ve lost your personal identity when stepping into the role of a family caregiver. That is why connecting with people who can relate and finding resources to help YOU, the caregiver, is important. If you are a family caregiver, click here to find your local CRC to connect with resources today!Share this post: