Jack Kurty – caregiver
When Jack’s mother had two strokes in 2016, he took on the role of a full-time family caregiver. He shares his story in honor of National Caregivers’ Month.
I am an educator who gave up my professional work in order to respond to a family emergency. Since June of 2016, I have been a full-time caregiver for my mother who suffered two major strokes. One day she was living independently, then everything changed. I provide the assistance, supervision, and comprehensive care required by her dramatically different circumstances.
Due to the severity of her stokes, she needs substantial assistance with most Activities of Daily Living. In addition, I do all IADL’s - managing finances, driving, shopping, preparation of meals, managing medications, scheduling appointments, keeping records, and doing daily housework (dishes, laundry, etc.). It is a complex picture. I am able to do all these things for my mother and have her live at home because she does not require skilled nursing, just assistance in many forms, encouragement, and companionship.
I approach my commitment to care much like I approached my professional work – with gratitude, as an act of service, and as a learning opportunity. I’ve read so many books, magazines, and online resources; learning more than I ever imagined I would need to learn about stroke, memory disorder, geriatric care, and rehabilitation. Throughout this experience there has been a great deal of love and respect expressed and appreciation for what my mother and I are able to accomplish as a team. We have always been able to discern some measure of progress. We celebrate each instance when skills lost to stroke, even the smallest, simplest ones, are relearned – like being able to put on a coat alone, even though assistance continues to be needed with buttons and zippers.
Over the past 46 months I have made it a point to reflect, each day, on what I have learned, what our best moments have been, and were opportunities for improvement exist. I am confident that the decisions I have made for my mother and me, as well as the way in which these decisions have been implemented, have been of the highest standard. It gives me a great deal of satisfaction to know that I am an excellent caregiver and that I have helped, in life’s most essential and significant ways, the person closest to me.
The greatest challenge of caregiving has been to manage a demanding situation hour by hour that came upon me like an avalanche while, at the same time, creating a longer-term plan for care that enables both of us to thrive. Full recovery, though elusive, would the ideal solution. While we work toward that goal, we are both willing to make concessions for the benefit of the other. My mom has been rehospitalized twice; this requires flexibility, a reassessment of everything, and new or modified responses to changing needs.
While I find it empowering to provide the services that my mother requires, it is a disappointment not to enjoy more experiences outside of the home, especially my hobbies, community interests, or professional work that has always allowed me to engage and collaborate with others. This frustration, though, seems small in comparison to the challenges faced day in and day out by stroke survivors. My mother and I continue to work together, and independently, to find solutions that will give me more free time. In the same way that my mom’s positive spirit, inner strength, and indomitability have been essential to her success, I hope that I can apply all that I have learned from her to flourish, too.