I Am a Family Caregiver: Meet Jana Panarites

Denise
(Editor’s Note: We continue our I Am a Family Caregiver campaign by featuring Jana Panarites. Our questions and her answers follow.)

janamom_helen-1Caregiving.com: Fill in the blank: I am____.
Jana: Grateful daughter of loving mom, caregiver, author, speaker podcaster and eldercare advocate

Caregiving.com: What’s the biggest misconception that others have about family caregiver?
Jana: That it's not a full-time job.

Caregiving.com: What would you like others to understand about your role as a family caregiver?
Jana: I'm on call for my mother 24/7, but I welcome the challenge and celebrate our strong relationship. Also, that there's been no greater reward in my life than caring for my mother. I'm lucky because she's so sweet and she gave me so much in my childhood. It's important to give back to her, using the strength she gave me.

Caregiving.com: How do you describe what family caregivers do?
Jana: We are the first responders for our loved ones, always there anticipating their needs and advocating on their behalf in a way no one else can.

Caregiving.com: How can others help you?
Jana: Legislators need to recognize the incredible work being done by family caregivers at a grassroots level and provide them with more tools and resources to support them--namely, they should pass the RAISE Family Caregivers Act, and reauthorize the Older Americans Act. As individuals we need to ask questions of our fellow caregivers, i.e., talk more with each other about the stresses of caregiving, but also celebrate the positive aspects of this extremely valuable work. We need a cultural shift away from individualism to a recognition of the interconnectedness of all people.

Caregiving.com: What’s one tip you suggest that helps another family caregiver?
Jana: Make time for yourself.

Caregiving.com: Briefly tell us about your caregiving situation.
Jana: Following my father's unexpected death in 2009, I became my mother's "accidental" caregiver, backing into the role without fully realizing what I was getting myself into or knowing how demanding it would be. I was mom's primary caregiver for five years, taking her to medical appointments, etc., in between trying to rebuild my career. Recently my mother moved to Florida, where my younger sister lives, so I'm no longer hands-on as I was a few years ago. But I still call Mom every day, handle her finances and have POA to make decisions for her. Mom is living in an assisted living wing of a retirement home, so she is being cared for in a way I'm grateful for, but both my younger sister AND I are still very much involved in managing mom's life.

Caregiving.com: What do you hope to accomplish during your life?
Jana: Through my book and in conversations online and in-person, I wish to inspire family caregivers, help them feel less isolated, and provide them with tools and resources to make every moment in life count, at every age and even under the most difficult of circumstances.

(We’d love to feature your story in our campaign–just complete our “I Am a Family Caregiver” campaign questionnaire. If you are a working family caregiver, feel free to also share your story as part of our Hire a Family Caregiver campaign. And, we also want to see your caregiving support group.)

Join our mailing list

Sign up to receive our monthly newsletter that includes caregiving tips, news, support and more.