‘Caring for the caregiver’

By Edy Graziani

Edy Graziani

I found out the hard way the importance of not letting my role as my mom's caregiver define me. My mom, Bruna Guazzelli, was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease about four years ago. For the first few years, it consumed me. That is, until I ended up in the hospital emergency ward.

I thought I was having a heart attack – but it turns out it was stress-related. That was my warning sign. I thought, "OK, I think I need to pull back."

I’m still my mom's primary caregiver, taking her to doctor’s appointments, managing her finances and coordinating personal support workers' visits to her apartment. I bring her to my house for dinner a couple times a week and make sure that she gets as much social time as possible.

But I also give myself permission to do what makes me happy.

For me, that means continuing to write books for young adults. Writing is a refuge; it's something I do for me. My second book - War in my Town - was based on my mom's experience growing up in a small Italian village in northern Tuscany during the Second World War. A portion of proceeds from the book are going to the Alzheimer Society.

I also take time to savour my teaching career and recognize the importance of my husband and four daughters – they’re so wonderful and understanding.

While it took a dramatic incident to realize that I needed to keep something of myself for myself, I believe that it makes me a better caregiver. Caregivers should definitely have a life of their own and shouldn't feel guilty about it – you need your own life in order to look after others.

Life doesn't end when Alzheimer's begins. Learn how to be there for those who are #StillHere ►