Eleanor Gaccetta’s mother was already suffering from dementia when she broke her hip in October 2009.
At that moment, Gaccetta couldn’t have predicted how much her own life would change for the next decade — and, 84,000 words later, what it would inspire her to create.
Gaccetta, who received both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in business administration at Regis, published her book “One Caregiver’s Journey” in spring 2019 about the nearly 10-year experience of providing full-time care to her mother.
The 218-page book is a memoir based on Gaccetta’s notes as a caretaker for her mother, Marianne Gaccetta, who died in May 2017 at the age of 102.
Providing full-time caregiving in her own home was a strange and unexpected left turn for Gaccetta, who spent 35 years working in policy and government in Colorado. At the time her mother broke her hip, Gaccetta was facilitating Governor Bill Ritter’s Child Welfare Commission and working on projects for the Department of Human Services. Weeks later, she was engaged in around-the-clock care.
Gaccetta wrote the book in part because she knows how common a story like hers is today.
“Caregiving is kind of where we are today,” she said. “It’s expensive to put someone in memory care, assisted living or a nursing facility, so more and more people in their 50s and 60s are finding themselves in a caregiver role.”
Gaccetta released “One Caregiver’s Journey” through the self-publishing service BookBaby. Another publisher, ReadersMagnet, is promoting the book this fall at international book fairs in the U.S., China, Germany and the United Arab Emirates. Gaccetta also discussed the book in an August interview on the podcast “This Week in America with Ric Bratton.”
As Gaccetta reflects on her caregiving journey, the question she continues to ask herself is: How did you do it?
“You get up every day and you pray for strength, you pray for patience, you pray for compassion,” she said. “As long as you can do it with love in your heart and you don’t do it with malicious intent ... you can do this.”
Gaccetta says the three most important values necessary for her caregiving were faith, love and humor. The latter helped her laugh when her mother would call her into the room at night asking if her favorite stuffed bear was OK. It also helped when her mother would tap her knife on a dinner plate rhythmically and try to get Eleanor to guess the song she was singing in her head.
Ultimately, Gaccetta says, faith is what inspired her to hang onto a positive outlook and keep her book from having a dark tone.
“[Faith is] what gets you through those hours at 2 in the morning when you’re faced with a soiled bed, you’re doing laundry and you’re thinking, ‘God, I’m tired.’”
The changes in her mother’s health, along with the intensive nature of caregiving, removed Gaccetta from everyday life in many ways. By the time of her mother’s death, Gaccetta says she hadn’t been to a restaurant in eight years or to a mall in four years.
“A world had passed me by for nine and a half years,” she said.
The book encompasses the six-month period after her mother’s death in the arc of the story. For a story this long in the making, death was not the end — in any sense.
“There is a welcoming feeling when you enter my house,” Gaccetta said. “There’s part of me that says, you have to think she’s around.”
To learn more or to order “One Caregiver’s Journey,” visit onecaregiversjourney.com. You may also listen to her podcast interview on “This Week in America with Ric Bratton” on Apple podcasts or online.