By Sherry Bingham

My exposure and experience with caregiving began when I was 6 years old.  My father’s parents moved in with us when we moved to Kingsport.  I especially loved spending time with my grandmother learning how to make things and help her.

When I was in high school, my mother’s mom came to live with us when she was around 90 years old.  I helped take care of her with my Mom.  She was always such a happy person but couldn’t remember things and got confused.  She eventually got too difficult for my Mom to care for and we had to take her to a nursing home for a couple years and she lived to be 100 years old.  I never thought about how hard it must have been for my mom caring for them.  She never complained and it just seemed a natural part of life.

Then my mom in her late seventies began forgetting things like how to drive to get her hair done which she had done for years.  She ended up on oxygen at home and my dad took care of her for several years and never spoke of how difficult to be her caregiver.  After she died, my Dad lived by himself for 10 years and then began having problems with his mobility.  I cut my work hours at B&H to half days and cared for him along with scheduling paid caregivers.  It pretty much put my life on hold.  He was unable to walk and had problems using his hands so it was a challenge physically.  But his mind was as sharp as ever so I know it must have been hard for him not to be able to do all the things he wanted to do.  He still never complained and I admire him for that.  It was a trying time but I’m glad I was able to be there for him and we became even closer because of it.

I remember when I had my Dad out trying to get him into the doctor’s office and a lady I didn’t know came over and asked if that was my Dad.  I said it was and she told me, “You certainly are a good daughter.”  It made me feel nice and just her few kind words made me feel appreciated.  I wish I had known when my mom was living what I know now and could thank her for all she did as a caregiver throughout her life.   Being a caregiver can be difficult but also very rewarding and I certainly empathize with and appreciate those that are in that position. “You certainly are a good person.”