By Robert Clark Young
Before 2008, when I was 47 years old, I led the self-involved life of the writer, most of my decisions turning on what I thought would benefit my career, almost to the exclusion of everything and everyone else.
I published books and stories and articles, I had a girlfriend who helped support me financially, and the parties I threw at a condo on Nob Hill in San Francisco were for my literary friends.
My only ambition was to remain as I was, albeit a more successful version of myself.
All of this changed with one phone call on July 30, 2008. My mother, 500 miles away, had suffered a stroke that permanently garbled her speech. I left my home, my relationship and my friends — “temporarily” — to help my father care for her.
Four months later, my dad, straining from these new burdens, but keeping silent about his cares, suffered a stroke even more devastating than my mom’s. He was paralyzed on the right side.
I had no background whatsoever in eldercare or geriatrics. Like so many millions of Americans my age, I was thrust into a life of caregiving. And instead of caring for one infirm parent, I had two of them.
I have been doing this work for free in my parents’ home for nearly four years. I consider it the most important work I have ever done.
Now there is a film that tells our story, seeking to raise awareness of what all of those families like mine have been going through.
The movie is called “Someday You,” and it stars my parents. A crew from Seattle-based 3-Dog Pictures and Petal Films, led by director Terisa Greenan, spent much of the summer of 2011 in our San Diego home, filming the story of my caring for my mom and dad.
The film’s tagline is “Give up everything. Find yourself.” It’s the story of how I learned to stop being “self-directed” and became “other-directed.” The movie explores the many benefits of becoming a caregiver:
* How to bring new joy and personal growth to your life through caregiving.
* How caring for your parents resolves the family-of-origin issues that hold you back in life.
* How performing eldercare draws dynamic new people into the caregiver’s life, since people are naturally drawn to caregivers’ altruism, selflessness and positive attitude.
* How caregiving teaches you to take better care of yourself, including eating a more healthy diet, getting more aerobic exercise, and losing weight. (I have lost 32 pounds since beginning eldercare and have kept them off.)
* How caregiving improves friendships, helps to open new career opportunities, and renews abilities in romantic relationships.
* How caregiving helps you to develop a far more positive attitude toward life overall.
To my surprise, caregiving has become the answer to almost all of my life’s problems. Becoming your parents’ caregiver can help you maximize the potential of your life, too.
“Someday You” is available through Amazon.com.
While Citizens Who Care for the Elderly can’t help you with all of your life’s problems, the nonprofit group deploys 100 volunteers in three programs throughout Yolo County: the In-Home Respite and Friendly Visiting Program, Time Off for Caregivers and the Convalescent Hospital Visiting and Pet Visitation Program.
Contact Citizens Who Care at (530) 758-3704 or [email protected].
— Robert Clark Young of San Diego is a caregiver for his parents, both of whom have suffered serious strokes. He is finishing his new book, “The Survivor: How to Deal with Your Aging Parents, While Enriching Your Own Life,” in which he shares his experience in elder care. This column appears monthly.