Today’s millennial voices post is written by Nicole Markert. Nicole is Caregiving Advice’s intern and is just days away from her college graduation! She recently interviewed her mom, Gina, about her experiences as a caregiver. And as she shares her mother’s caregiving story, we also get a glimpse into Nicole’s own fond memories of “Nana.”
When I asked my mom what first comes to her mind when she hears the word ‘caregiving,’ she answered simply: “My mom.”
My mom cared for her mother for many years until the end of her life.
I was quite young when my grandmother—or Nana, as I liked to call her—came to live with us. I honestly do not remember everything about her arrival, but I do remember all that we did to prepare for it.
My parents had actually invested in a renovation of our home, turning our garage into a separate living area with a private kitchen and bathroom—a mother-daughter house, as it’s commonly referred to. Both of my parents had full-time jobs then, so while the renovation was pricey, they invested what they could into making sure my Nana was as comfortable and independent as possible.
I remember all of the stories my mother told me about my Nana before and after she passed away. She was a single mom working full-time as an underwriter at an insurance company, raising two kids on her own after her husband walked out on her. She wore pointed heels to work so often that her toes began to morph into that shape.
My Nana was an animated and sassy woman. She valued her independence, but above all, she valued her family.– Nicole Markert
My Nana was an animated and sassy woman. She valued her independence, but above all, she valued her family. I remember how she would occasionally tease me, calling me a spoiled brat, but then we would sit down at her small, round, light wood table on her side of the house and play 100 Rummy together. As we lived about 20 minutes away from Atlantic City, practicing our card skills with low stakes—snacks and change—was pretty commonplace.
When she first arrived, all I knew was that Nana was coming to live with us. I didn’t know too much about the specifics of why, just that she needed more help. But now I know she was in a gradual decline, as my mom recently shared with me.
“It makes me a little sad to think about it,” she said, “When Nana came to live with us, she could drive, cook, etc. It made me sad because I saw her health gradually decline,” Mom explained. “It made me want to take care of her, and to make sure she was comfortable and not feeling like a burden.”
My mom said that she always tried to make Nana feel like she was a part of everything—whether it was taking her out to lunch, taking her to get her hair done, keeping her company, or inviting her over to our side of the house for dinner. Additional help from my dad, my brother, and I also helped make her feel more at home with us. At first, she was still capable of doing a lot of things on her own, but as time went on and my Nana needed more help, my mom became a bit overwhelmed—especially since she was working full-time.
“I realized I needed more support, so I decided to get help,” she said.
After Nana was hospitalized for a fall, that’s when my mother knew she really needed to get more help. She got in touch with a social worker who gave her resources for care and home health services, but she was also given a referral by a nurse who visited to check in on Nana’s care after her fall. My mom had the means to hire outside help, so she did just that. My Nana was adamantly against a transition to a nursing home, and Mom agreed. Though she still felt stressed, with help, caregiving became easier.
“There’s a lot of guilt. You feel like you’re not doing enough,” she admits. “But you have to take care of yourself. As soon as I got help, it was like a weight was lifted off my shoulders.”
She finally felt like she could go to work and not worry about leaving Nana alone for long periods of time. Without the help, my mom also felt she was neglecting herself as well.
As soon as I got help, it was like a weight was lifted off my shoulders.”– Gina Markert
When asked what advice she would give to others facing similar situations, she recommended reaching out for help the moment you feel overwhelmed—especially for state services, family supports, and even hired help if possible. The only thing she regrets was not reaching out for help sooner.
My mom felt a lot of guilt when it came to caregiving for her mom. She always felt it at the back of her mind, and she always questioned whether or not she was doing the right thing. Affirmation from others really helped her process through those difficult feelings. Overall, she was grateful to take care of her mom, even though it was hard. She wanted to give back to Nana and do the best for her after she had taken care of her all her life.
When asked how she feels looking back on her experiences as her mom’s caregiver, she paused momentarily.
“Good. I think I did a good job,” she finally said. “My mother and I grew a lot closer in the end. Happy I could do that for my mom,” she said. “I wouldn’t change anything no matter how hard it was. It made me feel good to take care of her in her final days, but I miss her terribly,” she adds. “And I think about it often.”
Nicole has been a true gift to our team since joining us in late 2019. When she’s not helping out with our Pinterest boards and other tasks, she’s penning poetry, reading Manga, or performing some serious karate (she has a black belt)! Nicole is working towards a Master’s Degree in poetry/publishing, and we love her big heart, her unique perspective on the world, and her incredible way with words.