Real Possibilities -- Take Care, Caregiver

Posted on 10/22/19

Amy Goyer, AARP’s family caregiving expert, will always remember the day she ran out of gas. Goyer, the author of “Juggling Work and Caregiving,” has balanced work and caregiving for most of her adult life while caring for her grandparents, both her parents and her sister.

“The car actually runs better on a full tank of gas,” said Goyer after refilling her gas tank.

It was the perfect metaphor for her caregiving experience.

“It was my ‘Aha!’ moment,” she said. “I was expecting myself to run on empty.”

Goyer uses her epiphany to teach other caregivers about the importance of taking care of themselves while caring for others. It’s one of the tips she will share with caregivers next month at seminars in Hawai‘i during National Family Caregivers Month.

Goyer said she finally realized that it’s not selfish to take care of herself while taking care of others. So, she plans little getaways — activities as quick as having a cup of coffee, or taking a walk or a Pilates class — along with a regular vacation so she can recharge.

“It makes us better caregivers,” she said.

Taking care of yourself also means “owning” your role as a caregiver and not feeling like you have no control, she said.

“If caregivers say that they don’t have a choice in providing the care, they have a worse attitude,” she said. “It may not be how you’ve envisioned your life, but you are making a choice. Own the choice.”

Goyer learned to build a team of family and friends to help with caregiving. She will be the featured speaker at the annual Maui Family Caregivers Conference on Friday, Nov. 22, at the Grand Wailea Resort, where she will share how you can build your team. She will also speak at events on O‘ahu on Thursday, Nov. 21, and Saturday, Nov. 23, and at Kaua‘i Community College on Wednesday, Nov. 20. Call 1-877-926-8300 to register, or go to aarp.org/HI for more information and to register online.

AARP also offers online resources at aarp.org/caregiving.

“It (caregiving) is a path we don’t really receive training for in life and what we are offering is some education and training that will help,” Goyer said.

“Caregiving is very unpredictable. You don’t know how someone’s illness or conditions are going to unfold,” she said. “You’re going to get knocked down. Unpredictable things will happen and there will be crises.

“But you just get back up.”

And, as tough as caregiving is, there are also rewards.

Goyer remembers taking her father, who has dementia, to a baseball game. But, she forgot to put his dentures in before they left home.

At the game, “Dad smiled, and I saw that he didn’t have his teeth. At first I felt really bad — ‘Oh no, caregiver fail.’ But he was so goofy-looking that I had to laugh and he made funny faces and we all laughed.”

Those moments can make caregiving worthwhile, Goyer said.

“I feel like joy is a caregiver’s best survival skill,” she said. “We have to create joy for ourselves and our loved ones.”

Craig Gima is communications director at AARP Hawai‘i. He is an award-winning multimedia communicator with more than 30 years of experience in telling stories online, in print and on television. A Honolulu native, Gima spent nearly 19 years at the Honolulu Star-Advertiser in a variety of reporting, editing and online roles before joining AARP in 2016. Gima also covered politics and higher education and filed reports from more than a dozen countries in East and Southeast Asia. His experience in television news includes tenures at KHON-TV in Honolulu, KPIX-TV in San Francisco and KCRA-TV in Sacramento. Gima graduated cum laude from the University of Southern California.

This story originally appeared in The Hawaii Herald.

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