For almost a decade I've been walking to support CaringKind and their dedication to providing programs and services to people affected by Alzheimer's and dementia.
Last week, I had the opportunity to talk about what caregiving has meant for me and my family for my Grandmother, Hyacinth Vassell. I've included that speech below, and I hope that you'll be able to donate to support this important cause. Thank you in advance!
"Hi, my name is Candace Douglas and I am a NYC caregiver. My grandmother, Hyacinth, was diagnosed with Alzheimer's in 2008 and in my mid twenties, as I was just beginning to learn what adulthood meant, I found myself sharing the role of primary caregiver with my mother for the woman, my grandma, who had long been the matriarch of my family.
Before her diagnosis, Alzheimer's had only been a word I read in a textbook in college. It took up less than half of page. And while I could use Google to learn the definition of the disease, there was nothing online that could prepare my family for what the word Alzheimer's would truly mean for us as her caregivers.
The word caregiver is deceptive in its simplicity, for it truly encompasses what is needed for this role that chooses you. You have to CARE. Like in those moments when my grandma started calling me by a different name. Or when I found myself gathering my entire family at CaringKind to learn how we could make the right choice as a family about placing her in a nursing home.
You also have to GIVE. Not just money, although paying for home health aide hours beyond what Medicaid provided did come out of our pockets. I'm talking about giving up on logic and reason when she accused us of stealing things. And giving up on sleep when she woke up in the middle of the night and needed assistance to use the bathroom. And giving up peace of mind the day she fell and we needed to take her to the emergency room for the second time in 3 months. Heavens knows, going to my CaringKind support group was one of the things that got me through that tough time to be able to give again the next day.
Caregiving is tough but it also has its rewards and its victories. It’s the small things, like singing a Frank Sinatra song and coaxing out a smile and maybe even a hum. It’s my mother cutting grandma's fingernails and her holding my mother's hand. It wearing a necklace, like this one I’ve got on that's older than me, and carrying on her oh so fashionable legacy. And it's the big moments, like joining together at the CaringKind Walk and seeing my grandmother's legacy grow with the next generation of my niece and nephews.
I'm so grateful to be here today. Thank you to CaringKind and this city for shining a light on caregivers and our needs. We need you and this city to continue to have our backs, this month and beyond. Thank you."