Welcome to Caregiver Crosswalk, a company that I founded in honor of my mother who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2006 and as a result of our journey together. She is still alive and lives in an excellent long term care residence that is close to my home. Prior to her diagnosis at the age of 72, my mother was an energetic and selfless woman, dedicating her time and tremendous patience in caring for my father who passed away in 2005, being a wonderful grandmother to my children, being there for her friends, doing volunteer work, loving her sport which was tennis and most importantly, being the greatest mother that a daughter could ask for.
The reality of “caregiving” has always been a part of my life. From the day I was born, my mother was a caregiver to my father who suffered from an extensive array of physical ailments including severe depression. She never sought help or support. I fully appreciate the pain and sadness in witnessing the impact that a chronic or debilitating disease can have on an individual, especially as it approaches its final stages. I can also appreciate the enormous amount of responsibility that is placed onto a family member who is caring for a loved one and the ripple effect that it has on everyone and everything around them. Without support, dealing with those feelings of fear, stress, anxiety, guilt, anger, depression and exhaustion can take a serious toll on the well-being of the person who is diagnosed and their caregivers.
I have spent the past few years volunteering my time mentoring families and promoting the importance of obtaining support services in order to be able to manage and cope with the impact of the disease. I know this reality first hand as not only did I NOT seek any type of support, but even if I had wanted to, I would not have known where to begin looking for it. From the moment that the neurologist officially diagnosed my mom with Alzheimer’s disease, other than immediately cancelling her driver’s license while we were in his office, the only bit of support that I obtained were his wishes of “good luck”. There was no “prescription” that was given as to how, where, when, who could assist us in managing this disease. I was completely unfamiliar with any of the symptoms, expectations, challenges that she, and inevitably I, would face in caring for her. I became completely self-educated on this disease and got caught up in a cyclone of caring for my mother that would last for the next 5 years until I suffered a severe nervous breakdown in July of 2011. I had placed unrealistic expectations upon myself to be the perfect mother, perfect wife, perfect friend, have a career, be a volunteer, and most importantly, be the perfect caregiver to my mother. I had managed to convince myself that I could do it all and that I did not need any help from anyone. The truth is, I desperately wanted and needed help but I was too stubborn to ask for it and second of all, I did not know where to turn to get it.
Over the years I have met numerous individuals in my position who have lived similar journeys and the common thread among all of us is that we wish that there could have been someone helping us make a plan in terms of obtaining the type of support that we need and point us in the direction of where to obtain it. My “aha” moment came to me while walking on the beach in Maine this past summer and hence the idea of founding Caregiver Crosswalk. I have always had a passion for helping others and hopefully through my new company I will be able to help as many people as possible.