This month, in honor of National Family Caregivers Month, we want to give a special shoutout to all who play and have played the role of caregiver in their family and community. We see you, and we thank you. And we want to share your stories.
Karen Good Marable and Nailah Elridge were brought together through the shared caregiving experience. Both Karen and Nailah were caregivers for their parents with dementia—an illness that causes a decline in mental ability and is not a normal part of aging. Through sharing their stories, the new friends recognized the relief of having someone to talk to and the role of this support in healing. This is what sparked the creation of the Refresh My Memory podcast.
‘Refresh My Memory’ is an ongoing conversation that digs deep into what life looks like from the lens of a caregiver.
Multi-hyphenate hosts Karen and Nailah take you through their journeys, from noticing the small changes in their parents to getting and living with official diagnoses.
Within our community, it isn’t uncommon that we often put off, ignore, or deny concerns about our health due to historical marginalization and disparities in healthcare spaces. By opening the door to conversations around health, caregiving, and dementia, Karen and Nailah are raising awareness while building a community we can rely on for support, advice, and healing.
With the holidays at our front door, managing all our roles while caregiving for our loved ones can be challenging. When asked for tips and advice for managing the holidays as a caregiver, Karen and Nailah had this to offer:
Keep gatherings early in the day.
Sundowning is a set of dementia symptoms that include anxiety, disorientation, and agitation. Making the most of the daytime hours can mean getting the best from your loved one without interrupting their evening routine.
Enroll everyone in helping.
Caring for a loved one is a shared responsibility. Ask friends and family to step in when and where necessary to help spread the love. This can ensure no one person is overwhelmed or left out. And if possible, Karen says including your loved one in activities can also help them feel included.
Keep it small and make everyone aware of the diagnosis.
An inner-circle-only gathering reduces sensory overload. You want your loved one to feel supported and comfortable. Karen suggests ensuring guests are aware of any diagnosis to communicate respectfully and avoid trigger phrases such as, “Remember when…”
Make time for yourself.
Take some moments for yourself, “even if it’s an hour alone to sit in the bathtub and read or have a glass of wine,” Nailah says. You can’t pour from an empty cup, so be sure to replenish yourself.
Take pictures and enjoy the moment.
Holidays are synonymous with family time. Appreciate every moment at hand. Taking it up a notch with pictures is a tip Nailah says helped their family during their first post-diagnosis holiday season. Putting pictures of their family at her dad’s bedside was a way to include him in the festivities and bring him comfort.
Keep traditions alive.
Karen emphasizes keeping traditions as close to “normal” as possible. From gift exchanges to favorite foods, keeping the environment familiar to your loved one may help ease them from any anxiety, confusion, or irritation they may experience. And while you’re gifting, keep those as practical as possible.
Caregiving is an experience that can be swept under the rug or buried under the many hats that we all wear. Too often, even the position of caregiver is assumed based on birth order, geographical proximity, financial status, and more. Though we may not talk about it, many of us can relate. For a parent, child, and everyone in between, caregiving is an ever-changing responsibility that affects many. It’s not an easy job, and it deserves to be recognized this month and every month. Happy National Family Caregivers Month.
Join Karen, Nailah, and their community in spreading awareness about life as a caregiver. Season one of ‘Refresh My Memory’ is available for streaming now. Stay tuned for more in the new year as Karen and Nailah gear up for Season 2, where they hope to expand to include voices from all experience backgrounds.
“When you’re in the thick of it, you think you’re alone. But you’re not alone.”