Being a great caregiver takes a special — and selfless — person. Janet Di Nola-Parmerter knows such a person. Her mother Alice looked after her parents, mother-in-law and two aunts. “I cherished growing up with them,” Di Nola-Parmerter said. The Loganville resident is now looking after her mother, 83 and with a myriad of medical conditions, as well as a 90-year-old aunt with dementia. She cared for her father, too, before his death last year. Di Nola-Parmerter, who is legally blind and runs a travel business out of her home, acknowledges that caregiving, with all its rewards, also can be a thankless job. But she did get a big thank you last year. The Rosalynn Carter Institute on Caregiving and the state’s caregiving network, which recognize Georgians across the state, honored Di Nola-Parmerter as the metro area’s top caregiver in 2012. They currently are asking for nominations for their 2013 Georgia Caregiver of the Year Awards.
Q: What is the biggest challenge of caregiving?
A: Probably that your time is not your own. I find I have to do my work after midnight, sometimes till 2 or 3 a.m. It is quiet then and I don’t get the distractions that come with caregiving.
Q: Did you ever think about a nursing home or other kind of facility for your relatives?
A: Growing up, my relatives lived with us. I cherished that. I want my grandchildren to know my mother and my aunt.
Q: Do you have siblings who could help?
A: My brother and my sister are both full time ministers in New York. They don’t have the ability to take care of my mother full-time. It just worked out that we have this house here and can accommodate everybody.
Q: With all that you have on your plate, how do you manage?
A: I ask myself the same question. I am not saying that I don’t get upset. The other day, my aunt slapped me in the face. You don’t expect that from your auntie who taught you the Bible. But it takes the strength of God, a lot of prayer and humor.
Q: Does your husband help?
A: The honest truth is, I couldn’t do this without him. He does what I can’t do. He is a special man with a warm love for God and family.
Q: You rely on faith to keep you and your family grounded and plugging along?
A: Completely. We support one another when there is a need.
Q: Your father died last year here in your home. Was that hard?
A: It was comforting for both of us to have him here. He did not want to be in the hospital. I know I did everything possible to make his last months and weeks the way he wanted.
Q: How do you take care of yourself to make sure you are going to be around for your mom and aunt, not to mention your kids and grandchildren?
A: I probably don’t take care of myself as much as I should. Last April, we put in a pool. I did it for my mother and father. Now my husband and I do laps. It gives me time to myself.
Q: How did being recognized for your caregiving make you feel?
A: It was a big shock and a wonderful privilege. Sometimes you are not appreciated by an elderly person as much as you would be if they were in their right mind. That can be discouraging.
Q: Given that, did the honor give you a boost?
A: The boost was being on the same level with so many other people who are doing the same thing. It was a real honor for me to be in the same category with them.
The Sunday Conversation is edited for length and clarity. Writer Ann Hardie can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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