Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement at Cleveland Clinic@LifeWithGrams’ Kris McCabe on the Caregiving Journey
Tell us about your grandmother…
My mom was a single mother, so my grandma was a huge support growing up. When I was 15, my family moved from New York to Las Vegas, but I wasn’t happy there so I went back and lived with my grandma. We’ve always been the best of friends.
What inspired you to become your grandmother’s primary caregiver at such a young age?
It was extremely heartbreaking watching my grandma diminish in the nursing home. I had this gut feeling that there was something more for her; this was not the way that the end of her life was supposed to go. As hard as this journey has been, it has taught me so many life lessons and given me an abundance of love.
My grandma and I are a care partnership. While she does have a cognitive disability, her heart is still there and she is able to nurture me in ways I never expected—and so desperately needed, especially when dealing with the anticipatory grief of having a loved one with Alzheimer’s. Life can go in so many ways... I choose love and focus on the joy.
What are the hardest parts—and how do you overcome them?
I put on my best smile, but to be completely honest, I cry every day. There’s uncertainty in every moment. There’s also the uncertainty in my life. I don’t know how long this journey will be or what I can do to provide for my future. But I choose not to get pulled down by those thoughts. I process them, I go to therapy, but I don’t let them control me.
Advice on how to best treat someone with Alzheimer’s?
Let go of expectations and be present. Go with the flow. Try to control your own energies—when I’m happy, it provides a better environment for her as well. Also, nurture who they are and who they have always been.
“As hard as this journey has been, it has taught me so many life lessons and given me an abundance of love.”
Find a support system—and find your community. For me, meeting people who are going through the same thing has been such a blessing. There are a lot of resources online and on social media. Your local area often has in-person support groups, too.
Don’t be afraid to ask for what you need. In the beginning, I felt like asking for help meant that I was failing. That’s not true. Call someone to help pick up groceries, for instance. Find ways to have what I call pockets of peace.
I wake up before my grandma, so I can set the tone for my day. I do my gratitudes in the morning. If there are moments where I’m feeling overwhelmed and can’t step away, I take a couple of deep breaths and regulate myself. It’s important not to ignore those feelings. That’s not good for me and it’s not good for my grandma.