Caring for my Oma as a teenager wasn’t a chore, it was an honor

Meghan and her Oma
Meghan and her Oma

I was like most other 16-year olds growing up in Norwalk, Connecticut: navigating high school, homework and friendships. Though, there was one major exception that set me apart: I cared for my 91-year-old Oma, who had Alzheimer’s disease.

My grandmother, Kathleen FitzGerald, was my hero. Originally from Ireland, she was part of the tribe who helped raise me into the woman I am today. When I learned of her Alzheimer’s diagnosis I didn’t fully understand it at first, I was just a kid, and she was living in a senior apartment complex, so I wasn’t watching her decline up close.

Then everything changed.

My father and grandfather both passed away in a short period. The stress of my Oma losing her husband and son accelerated the disease, and I now had a front-row seat to the devastating disease she was battling.

After school I would ride my bike to her house. Spending hours helping her, cooking and cleaning, while also writing my English papers and studying for biology tests. At the time, I didn’t even realize I was a family caregiver, I was simply a granddaughter who loved her Oma and wanted to spend my free time with her. It was never a chore to me, it was just my life.

I am me because of my Oma

Looking back, it’s clear to me now that I was my Oma’s caregiver. Caring for her opened my eyes to the reality that everyone has their own unique caregiving story.

Caring for a loved one is part of the cycle of life that ties generations of families together. Our mothers, fathers and grandparents care for us at the beginning of our lives, and it is our responsibility to care for them during the end of their lives.

Years after my beautiful Oma passed, she’s still inspiring me. She is who drove me to look for opportunities to support families caring for their loved ones, she is the reason I am a part of the Seniorlink Board of Directors.

My hope is for all caregivers to receive the type of support we provide at Seniorlink. Your work may seem insignificant now, but you are making a difference in the lives of the people you love most.

Meghan FitzGerald is a member of the Seniorlink Board of Directors. She is currently Managing Partner at L1 Health, the healthcare-focused business unit of LetterOne, an international investment business. She is author of the book “Ascending Davos: A Career Journey from the Emergency Room to the Boardroom".

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