My nana needs me

Photo of columnist Mikiyah Everett courtesy: Everett

You might not have seen much of me on campus this school year. There’s a good reason.

I have been traveling back and forth from Tallahassee to my hometown, Panama City, to aid in being a caregiver to my nana. She has dementia.

I never knew the extent of dementia and how different each case shows up in people until I became a part-time caregiver. Every 2-3 days I go back home to help with my nana because my family works during the day and we have no one else to come look after her.

Some tell us to try an in-home nurse but we’re afraid my nana will recognize them as an intruder in the home rather than someone coming to take care of her, which has happened before. Violence is not uncommon in dementia patients.

Growing up my nana was a hardworking, giving and loving person. She would give anyone the shirt off her back or her last dime. We were inseparable and now I have a front-row seat to watch her decline in memory and health, which is indeed stressful and not the easiest to deal with.

My friends and family call me strong or they’re confused as to how I keep the motivation to keep pressing forward in all of my responsibilities. Truth is I’m struggling and this has taken a major toll on me from my mental health to my physical health.

I have more anxiety now than ever. Between work, classes and being a part-time caregiver, I don’t have much time to decompress. Every time the phone rings, my heart skips a beat because the unknown is frighting and I never know what that phone call will entail. Will it be more bad news, or will I finally get peace?

I think many college students can relate to school and other outside stress being the main cause of physical health problems. Personally, I’ve dealt with lack of sleep, unsteady diets, high blood pressure from stress and more.

Now, I know these are not healthy in any way, which is why I want to develop robust coping mechanisms. I can journal, go on walks, and read my bible in an effort to keep my stress levels down.

The balance I’m implementing in my life is not a piece of cake whatsoever, but hopefully one day it will get easier. I believe it will.

My goal is to decrease my stress and be healthy again so I can be the best version of myself while navigating this new life challenge.