Caring for Family While in Uni

Joseph Meyer

Maintaining relationships can be tough, especially when you’re going to college, whether you are just out of secondary school or going later in Life. I personally had the privilege of living at home while at college, but it was incredibly difficult maintaining relationships not only because I always had a strange relationship with my parents, but there was a separate degree.

The separate degree dealt with caring for a family member while in Uni, my grandfather who was progressing through Alzheimer’s. This Blog will detail how I dealt with going to college, caring for him with some help and trying to maintain my relationships around me.

How I Dealt During Uni

Growing up and living at home I didn’t have the most stable home, but in my case, I really didn’t have the financial means to live off at the dorms or get an apartment. Thankful I could live at home, but it was still difficult.

To start, I was living with my Father and Grandfather during my college years, my father who really wasn’t the type to communicate with me, encourage me, he pretty much went to work, came home and that was most of his day, it was very much I will stay in my room, you stay in yours and everyone is happy.

Like I mentioned, I lived with my grandfather who at the time was going through the stages of Alzheimer’s. For those who don’t know what Alzheimer’s disease, it’s a progressive disorder that causes brain cells to waste away and die. It’s considered the most common form of dementia.

Grandfather Needed Me

Those were some of the toughest years of my young life, having to take a full load of courses, homework, try to have a social life and help take care of my grandfather. It was hard just to see someone you love go through, but let me tell you a little of those struggles.

To start, like mentioned a person’s brain cells start to die, which means, the person behavior, decline in thinking and social skills begin to change, sometimes drastically. My Grandfather a World War II Vet, who fought would have tremendous flashbacks from his time in War but forget who my grandmother’s name who was he was married to for over forty years and of course forgot my name and who I was.

He would have bouts of anger when we would remind of things, and when we would tell him that Grandmother was no longer alive, he grew sad and depressed and would cry over the thought. He also would require a catheter to be cleaned and exchanged regularly requiring someone to eventually feed him , bathe him and clothe him, which I did.

I remember those days at night he would walk around at night, jiggle the doorknobs at 2:00 am until someone put him back to bed.  Having to deal with this I could not deal, it was an incredibly stressful situation, as I was unequipped to take care of someone but many times it was left to me, because my father didn’t have the patience to deal with my grandfather either. My grandfather passed in 2003 and I always think that this was a time that I had the most difficult time maintaining relationships.

Not only was it hard taking care of him, I was going to major depression and anxiety, barely hanging to trying to take care of myself which added to my stress.

What’s Your Story?

For some reading this, you may be going through a similar situation, it’s not uncommon to live in a home where you have Mom, Dad, Grandparents, Aunts, Uncles who are aging and seeing a real decline in their health and it puts stress on the whole family.

To start, I would really need to take a step back and remember, these are our loved ones, ones that in many cases Loved and cared for us as Children and they too had to endure stress of caring for us. You may say well that’s different they are adults, but in actuality they are adults going back to being children again, it doesn’t happen to everyone, but many times when we get older we tend to revert back mentally and physically to a time when we were learning to walk and talk.

Work together, if you have family who is experiencing this you all need to work together, yes it will stressful, hard but at the end of the day, these may be the last real years of that person’s life.

For Example, Alzheimer’s can happen rapidly in a matter of years and in all honestly not the time to turn your back and look the other way when they are in need. You may have to do things you never imagined doing, like giving an adult a bath, helping them in the restroom, brushing their teeth, everything we tend to take for granted because we can do those things.

It’s all in how you view the situation, if you view it has a huge inconvenience, you will probably grow angry and tired of the person causing you to lash out at them for no reason.  I am sorry to say I lashed out a few times, lost my temper and patience, it happens to best of us.

What You Can Do!

Stay calm and educate yourself on what is happening with this person, it doesn’t necessarily have to be Alzheimer’s, it can be a major sickness, a disability anything that requires you to take care of someone else when you have little or no experience.

Know that it will get better in time, you will have those moments of love, knowing you are sharing in this persons most vulnerable time in their life and it’s important to remember that you hope someone is there for you if something happens to you.

Tips on Caring While Attending Uni

Here are some tips to help you work through caring for a family and going to college:

  1. Gather all family records and store them in a file cabinet, organized by year. There is a lot of information to keep track of, so you need an effective and easily accessible record-keeping system.
  2. Make a daily/weekly/monthly schedule and stick to it. Routines are incredibly useful for mitigating anxiety and for making sure you do everything you are supposed to do at work and at home.
  3. Seek community organizations that can connect you to resources such as support groups and in-home care providers. Those agencies can also provide up-to-date information on pertinent policies and laws, and help you develop a caretaking plan that aligns with your life.
  4. Consult an accountant about possibly claiming your loved one as a dependent. Then ask a financial planner for help creating a long-term budget that allows you to cover immediate expenses while also planning for the future.
  5. Meet with a lawyer who specializes in family law to ensure that official documents (e.g., power of attorney, will, etc.) are in place.
  6. Consider getting your loved one a social worker and/or guardian ad litem. These professionals are dedicated to ensuring the welfare of vulnerable people such as children, the elderly, and the chronically ill. Such experts are going to be better informed than you are about how to navigate the health-care system and obtain government assistance.

Some of these tips we took part and some we didn’t just depending on what your situation is like, It’s important that each family member is involved in the process and usually there is one person that acts as executor or guardian of that person.  This information I found here : https://www.chronicle.com/article/How-to-Be-a-Caregiver-While/243190

Although the years seems to fly by going to college, it seemed my loved one slipped away even faster, unfortunately for many going to college, your grandparents and older family’s members may need care.

Maintaining those relationships is key, but I feel making sure everything is fairly spread out as to who is going to do with what in assisting and caring for that person. I head all too often Families have falling out because of the stress and when others are not respecting your responsibilities like going to college, getting you degree and/or getting a job.

Maintain Those Relationships

I have seen and heard many situations where families are struggling financially and emotionally to take care of that family member. Financially caring for a family member can be detrimental to a family’s finances such as hospital care, hospice care, medicine and doctors’ visits all adding to the stress.

Clearly the best advise I can say is take it one day at a time, know that caring for someone can be thankless job, but you are making a difference. An area that I wanted to mention but takes a whole article would be how you maintain a relationship with a significant other when your going through caring for a family member and that would be have patience, both you and your significant other.

There may be times your relationship will be put aside to care for that person which becomes frustrating and stress on both of you, my advise is always put time aside for you.

During those times, you may feel your needs come last, but self care is so important and those around will need to understand for you to be your best at caring for family, you need to be your best. It may not be easy, relationships may suffer, but keep the course and know it will get better, there is a light at the end of tunnel.

While going to college and caring for a ailing family member know that you are important and you must make that known to your family. All too often students leave school to care for a family member and never return. Be the one that continues your studies, work hard, earn that degree and manage the best way you can.

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