I’m a registered nurse by day, and my Veteran father’s caregiver by night. This is what it feels like to always be on call

Yvonne Quinones-Reyes is a registered nurse at Seniorlink based in Merrillville, Indiana. Outside of work she cares for her father, Ivan Quinones, 72, a Vietnam War veteran recently diagnosed with diabetes as well as minor heart issues.

This is Yvonne’s story about dedicating her life to caring for others both at work and at home. Part 2 in a 3-part series on Seniorlink employees who are also caring for loved ones at home.

My father’s diagnosis

“I noticed something was off with my dad while aboard a family cruise to celebrate my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary. He’d recently had knee replacement surgery and was noticing loss of sensation in his hands. During the night, he frequently awoke needing to use the bathroom.

“I was worried. I asked him to visit his doctor, who promptly diagnosed him with diabetes. While the doctor was great at diagnosing my dad, he didn’t provide him with the necessary education to manage his disease alone. If it wasn’t for my knowledge on diabetes from being a nurse, I’m afraid he would have ended up in the hospital multiple times.

“At 72 years old, my dad can be forgetful. English is his second language, so he’s never quite sure why he needs another injection while at the doctor’s office, or what exactly he’s supposed to do with his medications. Luckily I work 5 minutes away from his house, so if there’s an emergency I can be there for him.”

Navigating life as a caregiver

“Balancing my career and caring for my dad has been one of the biggest challenges I’ve had to face. I’m constantly stressed out and I lose a lot of sleep caring for my dad. Meal prepping, driving to doctor’s appointments and creating a schedule that revolves around my dad is exhausting.

“I support family caregivers every day at work, but I never imagined I’d become one myself. I understand that not every caregiver is as fortunate as I am to have a background in healthcare. While my background has made my job caring for him easier, the nonstop caregiving at work and in my personal life can be difficult to maintain.

“I recommend every caregiver I meet to do as much research as possible on your loved one’s disease. Don’t be afraid to ask questions while at doctor’s appointments. The doctors and nurses are there to help you, tap into their wealth of knowledge, it will make your job as a caregiver that much easier.

“Supporting my dad has been difficult, and while I’ve always respected what family caregivers go through daily, I now have a fresh perspective as a nurse when I interact with them.

To family caregivers everywhere, know that you aren’t alone. I’m with you on this journey.”

-Yvonne Quinones-Reyes

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