I have recently become a caregiver. Well, let me rephrase that. Since I have been a wife and mother for over 13 years, it seems like I am always taking care of somebody else. But now that my husband has become disabled (at least temporarily), taking care of him has really, well… taken over my life. I don’t want to complain because I love my family and would do anything for them, but being a caregiver is more difficult than I could have ever imagined.
First, let me say I am not a nurse. I have told my husband this for many years. I guess he didn’t believe me. Unfortunately, bringing meals, dealing with body fluids, sanitizing the environment, and fluffing pillows just aren’t tasks that I enjoy. At all. And it shows. So I use the term caregiver very loosely.
But when my husband was at his worst this past month, I served three meals a day (plus snacks and drinks), cleaned and sanitized the house, supervised his walking so he didn’t fall, answered the door for him, picked up items lying on the floor so he wouldn’t trip over them, emptied urinals, reminded him to take his medications, responded to numerous phone calls, changed the bed sheets almost daily, talked to medical and insurance providers, ordered his prescriptions, attended his physical therapy sessions, filled out various forms and applications, loaded his equipment into the SUV and drove him to all-day appointments at the hospital.
I know my husband feels like he has lost a lot of his independence. But it has recently struck me that I’ve lost some of my independence too. I am no longer able to leave the house for hours on end without checking in with him. I can’t always do what I want, or what I may have planned for a particular day. Sometimes other people interrupt with their own priorities. It’s a strange dichotomy: I need to try to plan ahead, yet remain available and flexible to meet his needs.
Of course, my responsibilities don’t end with his care. I have to pick up the slack around the house too. Not that he did a lot around the house before (ladies, you know what I’m talking about), but now I really do everything. I pay the bills, shop for groceries, put gas in the car, make house repairs, shovel the snow, update the computers, drive our son to his sports and school activities, and much, much more. It’s not easy. Handling all of the household responsibilities myself, I have definitely acquired more sympathy for single parents. “So much to do, so little time.” It can feel overwhelming at times.
On top of all of this, I am trying to find a job to take care of my family financially. I have actually been looking for regular employment for a while now. In fact, I had interviewed for a couple jobs right before my husband was admitted to the hospital, but the potential employers “went with another candidate” when they found out that my husband was having a medical crisis. Now that my husband is on family medical leave, I feel even more pressure to “bring home the bacon.” (I think finding a job with a sick spouse will be a topic for another blog some day.)
So it’s probably no surprise that I really haven’t had much time for myself. “Doing my hair” consists of tying my still-wet mop into a ponytail (when I actually get a shower). “Getting dressed” means changing from my pajama pants to my track pants. The one thing I am trying to do for myself is make it to the rec center a couple times a week to walk on the indoor track for a couple hours. If I can’t find time to do anything else for myself, this is one of the best activities I have found to help reduce my stress.
Yep, I’m finding that being a caregiver is a huge responsibility and adjustment for me. Fortunately, my husband has actually improved quite a bit over the past couple weeks since I began writing this blog. And I’ve been blessed to receive occasional help from family members, friends, social workers, and medical staff. So I’m not quite sure how my role is going to develop and change over the next few weeks or months. Things could get better or worse. But I know that God will be teaching me to persevere through difficult times, have more patience, and rely more upon him no matter what my circumstances.
UPDATE: We regret to inform you that Jason passed away on April 2, 2011. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Graham family. Read full story.