Carlos Olivas is a fun-loving, humorous and creative person with dreams and goals. He is a father, son, brother and caregiver to his dad. He previously worked in the live event and entertainment industry as an equipment operator before taking on his newest role, “caregiver”. We had the chance to interview Carlos and learn about his caregiving journey.
Share your caregiving journey.
My journey began late in 2015 as the emergency contact for my dad. I received a phone call from my dad’s dentist. The office tracked enough observations to bring attention towards my dad’s health. Our dad was diagnosed with MCI (mild cognitive impairment) by his primary care physician a few weeks after. My brother and I began to make plans for supervising our dad’s health.
In 2016, I began a transition of moving from California back to the house I was raised in, my hometown of Sacramento. In my mind at the time, my dad was normal as usual with some memory loss. I lacked the knowledge of mild cognitive impairment and the symptoms of dementia. I was unaware of the hardships that followed. The emotional impact that severely affected my health. I questioned my role as a son, a caregiver and a parent.
The applied stigma of being male caregiver never appealed to me. My mom was my first caregiver role model, caring for a family of three males. Mom was ahead of her time. When mom began to have health challenges with breast cancer, diabetes, and other symptoms, our dad cared for her. Dad was the first male caregiver before knowing the term “male caregiver”.
Caring for an aging parent with health challenges can be overwhelming. I began to initiate into levels of anticipatory grief. Not to mention the abrasive father/son dynamics of living together. It was when I fell deep into despair teetering with depression that I sought the need for change.
I needed to change to become a best friend to my dad who is living with Alzheimer’s Dementia. I began to take a positive approach towards maintaining our Dad’s dignity and supporting a quality of life. I followed down the caregiver river having no regrets. Creating memories of joy while untangling dementia. Being mortal as a happy health caregiver.
I began to unlearn what I knew about aging, dignity, compassion, and empathy. I unlearned what I knew about my dad. I started to listen to dementia and how to best serve our dad. What I began to learn is dementia is not just person-centered care, it’s a community of care partners.
I am here at this moment along my journey because of the support from the dementia care community of caregivers and community based resources. I am not alone.
What do you know now, that you wish you knew then?
That we can normalize roles of caregiving for an aging population. I have seen it all of my life and it is a growing community of support that needs to be on the forefront of healthcare.
How do you make it through the emotional hardships of caring for a sick loved one?
I am currently going through an emotional hardship as I type. Three months ago, August 2022, we lost my brother to health challenges. My brother is an intricate part of our family care partners. He is one of the large percentage of caregivers that pass away before their loved ones are cared for.
I am engaged with anticipatory grief along with grieving the loss of my younger brother at the same time. The heaviness of balancing through this period is hard to express with words.
What provided me strength through this process has been my dementia community. Their support has been very helpful in my time of need. I am grateful to my dementia caregiver coach among many other people like my therapist, as well as fellow caregivers across social media and caregiver support groups.
Our life-long family friends and close relatives have been very supportive and understanding of the delicate challenges we face with sharing this loss with our dad living with Alzheimer’s.
The impact from emotional trauma can have irreversible possibilities of decline. The support is greatly appreciated as we charter a new chapter of the caregiver path.
My main support person through this difficult loss has been my daughter Eva Lozen. I cannot convey with words the gratitude I have for this young lady.
Dad will always be that rock through thick and thin. I learn from the best.
As a caregiver, what resources would you like to see available?
I feel it is necessary to provide support through education of family caregiver practitioners as soon as a diagnosis of terminal outcomes. The need for healthcare systems to adapt toward the changing face of the growing aging population is now. Support for family caregivers and care partners is necessary to advance a commitment of caring for our aging community.
What do you do for self-care?
I feel self care is very important to separate from the strains of this role. A few things I like to do is bike ride with friends a few times a month. I feel daily routines help keep me accountable for self care activities, to hold space for myself to begin each day.
I try to maintain a journal of mental thoughts and notes about my dad’s health. Also, breathing exercises to reduce anxiety is a normal routine. Getting outdoors to explore with a hike along the river helps soothe my mind. I do get quality time to recharge and rejuvenate my body to endure this journey.
What advice would you give to a new family caregiver?
Caregiving is a mindset. You are not alone. It takes discipline, kindness, compassion, gratitude and an understanding of the growing abundance of community-based resources to assist along the caregiver journey.
Can you tell us more about why you share your caregiving journey with others?
I share my caregiver stories with my caregiver support group members. Those meetings are confidential and electric. The flowing emotional currency can get heavy. The level of compassion and kindness is deeply appreciated. I am comfortable being vulnerable with other people striving to cope.
I also advocate for public policies to overcome Alzheimer’s and dementia. As a caregiver, I feel my voice can have an impact with grace and encouragement. As hard as it has been, there is no other place I would rather be than next to my dad.
My dad is an amazing artist who is thriving on creativity while navigating through a terminal neurodegenerative brain disorder. I started an Instagram page initially to highlight my dad’s daily routine with art. It has become a video diary of my dad’s journey. I enjoy showing off and sharing my dad with his fans.
What else would you like to share with fellow caregivers?
- I am a Champion caregiver with caregiving.com.
- I am a local ambassador for a men’s wellness group called Into the Dark Blue.
- I am a member of the Sacramento Walk to End Alzheimer’s planning committee.
- I am a fellow with Caring Across Generations.
- I am a volunteer advocate for public policy for Alzheimer’s and other dementia.
Where can people find you?
Follow my dad’s Social media:
- Instagram @charlierobot
- TikTok @charlie_robot
- Instagram @carloseveryday
- Coming soon- my website: www.carloseveryday.com
We are so grateful to Carlos for sharing his story. His story is a great reminder that when faced with hardships, it’s always nice to have a community of people going through similar situations who can relate to you. If you are a family caregiver, click here to find your local CRC to connect with resources and a community today!Share this post: