Today on one of the pages I follow on Facebook, there was an article that was asking caregivers what it was like to be a caregiver. It got me thinking about a post and this is it.
My caregiving is split between myself and dad. Dad gets her settled in the morning, but by the time I get going, she is already needing me. Pain meds, bathroom trips, sometimes changing pants.. but that is normal. That stuff doesn’t bother me. Its what you don’t see, what goes on on the inside of me.
My chronic back pain is already bad, but with mom’s loss of strength, I have to help her get up out of her chair. Its a team effort between us. I am generally able to brace myself to help her up, but its still the muscle usage my back gets that bothers me the most. Its the waking up in pain every morning regardless of the day before, because well, my pain meds have worn off and I am so stiff some mornings that I can’t move. But I don’t have that luxury of letting pain meds kick in most mornings. I get up, let the dogs out, check on mom before I let dogs back in, get dressed, take my meds and get my day going. The getting going generally starts with getting her pain meds, getting her drink refilled, then helping her to the bathroom, pull up changes (bending over), putting pants back on (still bending over), getting her back to her chair. All of this takes a good 15 minutes and then repeat generally in an hour. Sometimes, she is ok for me to come back in my place to finally maybe wake up and let my pain meds kick in. Then generally once I am feeling ok, I work on my place (whatever chores for that day may be), in between of checking on her. I am in there every 45-60 min. If I don’t have anything going, I sit with her and we watch tv or talk.
Another thing that gets me… is the pure exhaustion. Even when you are “off”, you are not “off”. Calls to be made if not done yet, the other my household chores, I still have to cook dinner, wash dishes, try to finish up cleaning up. Now, yes, I do have my husband and son that help. Actually recently, I have been making my son do more cleaning, my husband has a grill now and does a lot more cooking now. If I do cook, its only just 1 or 2 things. Then I also have to help my husband too. He has his own issues that he needs help with sometimes. He is getting better, but there are still days all I want to do is sit and I can’t. Then at night, the lack of sleep because 9/10 times you are over tired, pain keeps you up, or your brain won’t shut off. So, then when I don’t sleep, I start my day already dragging and I have sometimes just wanted to crawl into bed and stay there after I let the dogs out.
Then there are other days, not so much me personally, but in general of the caregivers world.. sick days. We don’t get sick days. You take every precaution to make sure they don’t get sick all while making sure you don’t get sicker. It is rare that we get an actual sick day… but when we do, we are usually in the ER, or at least a doctors office. I did get my normal head cold for the year, and thank goodness, I got over it before mom got really bad. This also goes for injuries and surgeries. Nov. 28 I am having surgery and thank goodness I have things set in place, at least somewhat. Dad is taking off the week I have surgery, and then hopefully I will have respite care coming in.
I haven’t even touched the mental part.. Anxiety for what could happen when you are not sitting with them, anxiety for wondering how you are going to be able to keep going. Personally, I am mentally worn out from the worrying about mom. Is she going to be responsive when I come inside in the morning? Am I going to have dad wake me up in the middle of the night needing my help? Then add in.. how am I going to help mom when I am recovering from surgery when I am not suppose to be on my foot ?
The hardest part of all of this…trying to keep yourself together in front of them, when all you want to do is just cry because you know they are miserable, you don’t see who they once were. My heart breaks everyday for mom. She has been my rock for so many years, and now I must be hers. We have our moments. Like, walking back from the bathroom, she stops, gives me a hug, and say I love you. That makes it all worth it. I treasure those moments.
Don’t get me wrong. I wouldn’t have this any other way. Mom was there for me day and night when I was in the hospital as a baby. She carried me through many dark days, she has been there for me in more ways I can say. I owe it to her to take care of her as she did me. So, this one is for all the caregivers out there. We all understand each other’s pain, the tiredness, the tears, the joy. Give yourself a pat on the back, you deserve it, you got through another day.