By Carly Wolberg
My mom abandoned her highly successful marketing career to dedicate her life to my dad. It is one of the most selfless and caring acts I’ll ever know. I know I’m not privy to all the things that my mom did for my dad and I know that I’ll never full understand what my mom went through in the three years she was his caregiver, but I am so inspired by her that I have to share what I have seen and learned from her. I want to share why my mom is my ultimate role model and how she gathered the strength and perseverance that I try to emulate in my life.
As people who have experienced Alzheimer’s know, there are so many layers to my experience—and watching the sacrifice, patience and love my mother had as a caregiver for my dad has been a huge part of that experience.
I remember thinking how unfair life was (and still is) when I went home from college and saw first-hand what was happening at home. I was angry at life wondering why my dad was terminally-ill and why my mom was being forced to give up her life to care for him. I felt bad for both of them but sometimes I didn’t know who I felt worse for.
As their daughter, I didn’t quite know my place. How was a 19 year-old in college supposed to adjust life to accommodate for a sick dad? My mom was currently carrying the full load on her shoulders, and I was conflicted on my role—I wanted to help and support my mom while she cared for my dad. I came to realize that the best way for me to help my mom was by giving her a break. This meant that I would take my dad out to breakfast on Sunday morning so that my mom could have the morning to herself I would come home on weekends from school so that my mom could get away for the weekend and escape the routine caregiving duties. For Mother’s Day, I would take my dad out for the whole day, because the best gift I could give my mom was a break from caregiving.
My mom sacrificed her life to care for my dad and she did her best to make sure me and my sister’s lives remained as undisrupted as possible. It was 2012 when we got the official Early Onset Alzheimer’s diagnosis. My sister graduated from Princeton University in 2013, and pursued a successful career in banking in New York City. I studied abroad in Sevilla, Spain, in the spring of 2013, and spent the following summer interning in New York City. I graduated UNC-Chapel Hill in spring of 2016, and moved across the country to Seattle for my job with Amazon. My mom has supported me and encouraged me through it all.
We were lucky. My sister and I would have very different lives right now if it weren’t for my mom’s strength and insistence that we stay on track and achieve or goals in school and our careers.
Each time I came home from school or my parents would come visit me, there was a new progression in my dad’s disease. My mom was always accommodating for the latest change in my dad. As I watched my parents’ relationship change more and more from being a husband and wife to being parent and child, I was scared. I was concerned. I was upset. My primary concerns revolved around my mom’s mental health, my dad’s happiness, and my family’s financial situation with both parents not working yet still putting two children through college. I felt helpless.
Throughout these three years, my relationships with my mom and sister changed and got so much stronger. By working together to care for my dad as well as provide each other emotional support, we grew closer. We talked to each other more frequently. We spent more time together as a family as we learned just how important family is and how quickly things can change. We learned to live and appreciate the present moment and take one day at a time.
I learned the art of patience and selfless love by watching my mom care for my dad. And I consider that a blessing.