Caregiver Spotlight: Kris
Kris is a free-spirited, quick-witted former bartender who has always had a very special bond with her grandmother, Mary (AKA- Grams) to whom she is now a full time caregiver. When Mary was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, Kris knew she wanted to be the one to take care of her. Kris’ love for her Grams, her spontaneity, passion for life and love for human connection are all reasons why she should be the one to do it.
We had the chance to interview Kris and learn more about her caregiving journey. It isn’t everyday you see a granddaughter and grandmother dynamic and we are excited to share Kris’ unique story.
Share your caregiving journey – how it began and how it’s going.
My Grandma has been my best friend since I was born. I can almost guarantee that in my nearly 35 years of life I have talked to my Grandma and told her I love her every single day. When we started to notice the changes in Grams’ behavior we weren’t too sure what to do as a family. She was stubborn and insisted that she was fine but we knew better. She had spent time living with my sister and then my mom before she was officially diagnosed but it got to a point where my mom didn’t know how to continue keeping her safe at home. We had to find a way to help Grams – so after much resistance, we were finally able to get her evaluated and she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. My mom made the decision that memory care would be her best bet. Grams spent three months in memory care where I visited every single day. With each day I felt like I was losing the joy my Grams had for life little by little and I couldn’t bear to see it. So I asked my family if I could take the chance of having Grams live with me. As a single 29-year-old bartender, my family had some skepticism, but they knew the bond Grams and I always shared and figured if anyone would be able to manage Grams it would be me. So we took a chance. I moved Grams into my apartment and had no idea the journey we were embarking on. I still saw her as just my Grandma and I wanted to do anything to keep her that way. I didn’t know anything about being a caregiver nor did I have much information about dementia, other than it’s what my Great Grandma died from when I was 16. It took some adjusting, to say the least but with time, patience and support from others in my same shoes I started to understand my new role as an Alzheimer’s caregiver. I dedicated myself to learning everything I could to best support my Grams. Here we are five years later and as hard as it may be, it’s been the most rewarding thing I have ever done.
What do you know now, that you wish you knew 5 years ago at the beginning?
Nothing that I do will stop this disease. I can do the best I can with the knowledge I have at the time but there is no cure and there is no turning back the clock. In those early months, I tried so hard to hang onto who my Grams always was because I didn’t want to let the disease win but that only caused turmoil. I learned ways to honor my Grams through her progression and how to separate Alzheimer’s from Mary.
When you first started your caregiving journey, what were some of the most mentally challenging obstacles that you had to overcome?
ALL OF IT! In the beginning, you question everything. Am I doing the right thing? Am I doing enough? Is this worth it? Why is she doing that? Why won’t she listen?! Your whole world changes. I no longer had the freedom of doing whatever I wanted when I wanted. I was putting someone else’s life and priorities ahead of mine. I had to adjust to my new role as a caregiver while watching Alzheimer’s take away pieces of who my Grams was.
You care for your grandmother, which is pretty unique. Was it hard to adjust out of the granddaughter role and into a new caregiver role? Can you share your experiences with the dynamic of this unique situation?
I mentioned earlier that Grams truly was my best friend, she also helped raise me and I even lived with her as a teenager so she always felt like more than just a grandma to me. The adjustment was hard because at first, I didn’t even know I had a title or what it entailed. I’d tell people that I moved my Grams in with me and I was helping take care of her but that just seemed like what I was meant to do. I saw my best friend in a time of need and I wanted to provide the love she always gave to me when I needed it. Even though I didn’t know exactly what this journey would lead to, I tried to always remember the love we shared. That love helped me grow into the caregiver I am today. She may not know my name or that I am her granddaughter anymore but I never focused on that, I always tried to honor our bond and connection through the different stages of this journey.
As a caregiver, what resources would you like to see available?
I would love to see family caregivers be a priority! I would love it if we could be paid properly and be taken seriously. We know our loved ones better than most and it would be great if it felt like we were truly heard when it comes to advocating for the needs of our loved ones.
What do you do for self-care?
I make sure that every single day I devote at least a half-hour to something I want to do for myself. I try to wake up before Grams so I can start my day with some meditative breathing and yoga. I do the same thing before going to bed. I also do a written and creative journal. Though I am fully devoted to my role as a caregiver I do whatever I can when I can to honor who I am as well. Even on stressful days when it seems like I can’t catch a break, I create a break for myself, I may close my bedroom door and have a 5-minute dance party to shake the stress away.
Can you tell us about your website, www.lifewithgrams.info?
I started our website so we could have a place that shares a bit more about us and our journey. I wanted it to also be a place fellow caregivers or those just starting their journey could find information and resources that have helped me along the way. I share links to other caregivers who inspire me and experts I have learned from as well.
What else would you like to share with fellow caregivers?
There is no certain way your journey has to look. I don’t just mean that as a caregiver but life in general. Let go of expectations and enjoy where you are at this moment. Do what is best for you. I look back on some of those hard days and realize even those moments were helping me grow and become the best version of myself. It may sound cliche but we’re not guaranteed tomorrow so enjoy today. Life is unpredictable. So often I talk to caregivers who feel they are missing out on life or feel they should be somewhere else on their timeline. I choose to look at it from a different perspective, I may not be where I thought I would but look at all the love, patience and knowledge I have gained by being right here.
Where can people find you?
Our website is LifeWithGrams.info and you can find us at @LifeWithGrams on Instagram and TikTok!
Thank you to Kris for sharing her unique caregiving journey with us. We love her advice of letting go of the expectations and enjoying the moment. She’s right, there is no certain way your caregiving journey is supposed to look. But there are many resources available to help guide you when you need it. If you are a family caregiver, click here to find your local CRC to connect with resources today!Share this post: