The COVID-19 pandemic not only jolted our world economically, socially and mentally, but also made individuals like myself learn to quickly adapt to sudden change. I am a caregiver to my mom diagnosed with Alzheimer’s/dementia. Did you know that according to the Alzheimer’s Association, there are more than 16 million Americans who provide unpaid care for people with Alzheimer’s and other dementia? Yes, I am one of those individuals – a caregiver to my mom who works full-time.
Prior to COVID-19, I paid for a part-time caregiver to attend to my mom’s needs while I was at work. When my team and I were instructed to work from home, so much went through my mind, such as how will I manage my team remotely and balance it with my mom’s caregiving needs? My mom literally has “balance” and mobility issues, so adding dementia to the mix, she does not understand the concept of working remotely. She still thinks I am in school or taking time off from work. Several times during the day, I need to remind her I am working in my room, managing my team remotely.
Unfortunately, despite working from home, my mom’s cognitive state leaves me no option but to hire assistance 25 hours a week, so I can focus on my work. If things were a bit more stable in my personal situation, I would balance working remotely and taking care of her. I would also save more than $1,000 a month in care costs. Unfortunately, in mid-March, my mom suffered a mini-stroke and that lead to two hospitalizations, a skilled nursing facility, surgery to release fluid in her brain and aggressive rehab at the hospital and at home.
Whether I am living in a COVID-19 world or not, life is stressful as a caregiver. Every day, I strive for excellence to make sure my team is going above and beyond to serve the constituents of Orange County, Florida. I manage that while ensuring that my mom is attended to and does not fall. There have been a few times when help is not present, and my mom suddenly gets up and falls. Also, personal finances are stretched thin with unexpected expenses. As a public servant, we are dedicated to serve the people, overall, that is where many gain a lot of satisfaction; however, as a caregiver, I am experiencing caregiving expenses are exorbitant. While many of us dream about going on vacation, my reality is I am unable to because I cannot afford to pay someone a couple of hundred dollars a night to care for my mom and go out of town for a few days.
Caregiving is an issue that many may not be exposed to, but is a reality. The Alzheimer’s Association indicates that about two-thirds of caregivers are women; more specifically over one-third of dementia caregivers are daughters. The statistics are alarming, and the long-term forecast is dismal unless we take action now. Currently, if you are a caregiver and balancing work, I encourage you to have these discussions with your HR department to see how they can accommodate your needs. Most importantly, it is important to focus on self-care, because if you do not take care of yourself, how can you take care of your loved one and your team?
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Usha Tewari is a first-generation Indian-American born and raised in Orlando. Ms. Tewari has over 14 years of experience working for elected officials at the federal and local levels. She currently works full-time in local government managing 13 individuals and is a caregiver to her mother who is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s/Dementia. In 2019, she was Orlando Magazine’s “Woman of the Year” with her advocacy efforts. In her spare time, she devotes herself to advancing Alzheimer’s/Dementia awareness at the grassroots level in her community as well as Tallahassee and Washington D.C. She serves as an Alzheimer’s Ambassador for Congresswoman Demings.