Sara Stuart became the caregiver to her mom, who has Early-Onset Alzheimer’s Disease, almost five years ago. Now at 32, Stuart also has a 3-year-old daughter and a 12-week-old son. Being a young caregiver with children hasn’t been easy.
“Trying to juggle being a parent to two young children and trying to take care of a sick person is almost impossible,” Stuart said.
Stuart’s daughter was born two months early, coinciding with her mom’s first appointment and officially being diagnosed with Early-Onset Alzheimer’s Disease. After having a preemie, Stuart found herself on the phone with doctors going over the detail of her mom’s sickness.
“Even up until my son was born, right before my water broke, I’m on the computer trying to figure out my mom’s insurance for the next year,” Stuart said.
Her mom’s illness has taken a lot of Stuart’s focus, and while it was a no brainer – of course she’s taking care of her mom – she’s also been able to rely on others. Balancing children’s birthday parties and doctor appointments is made possible with the help of Second Family.
Stuart found out about Second Family by seeing it in her church’s bulletin. It’s a group of trained volunteers who are part of the CarePartners’ Second Family Care Team™ who offer support and companionship for homebound individuals.
“They’re like family you didn’t even know you had,” Stuart said.
The volunteers help take care of her mom when Stuart needs to go to a birthday party or the grocery store. They also take her to the Gathering Place, which is a 3 to 3.5 hour long program designed to give caregivers a respite while their loved ones participate in planned activities such as games, music, arts, crafts, lunch and socialization.
“Being a caregiver is a huge, huge undertaking.” – Sarah Stuart, family caregiver.
Stuart said before she got sick, her mom was very active.
“She was the type to never be at home,” Stuart said. “When she got sick I didn’t want her to have to be home by herself.”
Second Family has helped ease that burden and allowed for Stuart’s mom to be active in a safe environment.
Since she’s become a caregiver, Stuart has learned how important the little things are. Like, taking time for yourself each day. For her, that was going to the gym at least 30 minutes a day. It helped clear her mind and lessen her stress level.
What’s also helped Stuart is having a husband who is 100 percent on board with her being a caregiver to her mom, especially since it’s something that wasn’t planned.
“Being a caregiver is a huge, huge undertaking,” Stuart said.
But her biggest piece of advice to others who find themselves in a caregiver position is to get plugged into the caregiving community.
“One thing we did that really helped was going to a lot of the caregiver conferences,” Stuart said.
CarePartners host caregiver educational events throughout the year. Find them at www.carepartnerstexas.org/educational-resources/conferences-workshops/