SHERIDAN — “For the longest time, granny was my life. Everything I did revolved around her,” said Tatiana Hom.
Hom was a caregiver to the granny who raised her as a daughter. For many of Hom’s teenage years, her granny Julester Grant suffered from Alzheimer’s dementia, a decline in her mental ability that took a toll on Grant over a period of years. Hom wanted to care for the woman who loved her; she stepped into the role of caregiver early in life.
The journey was arduous. There were moments of fear that Grant would flee and days when Hom was exhausted. Hom’s family who supported her lived states away. As Grant’s dementia progressed, Hom’s caregiving duties intensified.
“She lost strength to where she couldn’t stand up or even hold onto a (support) bar,” Hom said.
Hom’s daily routine changed to where she bathed and dressed her granny after waking her every morning while she was in bed. Hom would then lift her into her wheelchair to brush her hair for the day. Breakfast in the living room followed.
“She couldn’t eat. I had to puree her food,” Hom said. “It got to a point where she couldn’t hold a spoon or fork so I would have to feed her. I would make something soft for her like cereal or oatmeal that she wouldn’t have to chew.”
The routine would repeat through the day for lunch and dinner interspersed with Hom moving her thin and frail granny in her wheelchair to avoid sores developing on her pressure points. Help from Sheridan Memorial Home Care and the Sheridan Senior Center was a blessing in an intense daily routine.
Yet, there were still special moments between the granddaughter and her granny.
“Even when she couldn’t talk much, she would smile at me as if to say thank you. I knew she was still in there. It was hard and I knew it was hard for her,” Hom said.
Grant died April 13, 2014. The transition was difficult.
“I was so stuck in that schedule,” Hom said. “I found myself constantly thinking of her. When I was in a store, I thought, that would be nice for granny. I would look in her room to check on her. It was like that for several months. I didn’t know what to do with myself. I was lost.”
Hom took a trip to spend a month with an aunt and cousin on the coast.
“They helped me de-stress,” Hom said. “I hadn’t been able to get away or go anywhere.”
Hom returned to Sheridan and began working, something she had not been able to do with a caregiver’s schedule.
Hom’s boyfriend told her about a job opening at the Senior Center; he encouraged her that she would be good at the job. Hom applied and was hired for the Senior Center’s Help at Home program. Hom began to discover a new page for her life.
She remembers her granny with tenderness.
“Recently I was re-decorating and came across the article about me and my granny. It made me sad. It made me realize how much I miss her. I wish she could come back if only for a day, come back the way she was. But I was glad that I was there for her when she really needed me.”
Hom is approaching a new phase of life with optimism.
“I feel so excited for the future,” Hom said. “I feel that I can do anything. I want to go everywhere and do everything.”
Hom wants to travel. One place she would like to visit is New York City.
“I want to shop and eat and see everything,” said Hom of the prospect.
“Being with granny really taught me some things,” Hom said. “She taught me about patience. It taught me to appreciate the little things in life like when she would have those moments of clarity and say thank you, or when we could have a small conversation. I would appreciate those moments even more.”
What advice does she have for other caregivers?
“Talk to someone about it,” said Hom. “Vent and talk and have time for yourself. I didn’t have time for myself and it just wore me out. But after recuperating and tears I came to peace.”