September 2022

I’m not cut out to be a nurse. I have nothing but the utmost respect and appreciation for these men and women who work in that profession. For the first two weeks of August, my husband, Roger was in the hospital. It was a very scary time for us both and while these incredible professional caretakers were doing the real work, I was there all day every day and even some nights providing Roger the personal support and extra touches he needed.

I did things that I wouldn’t be able to do for anyone other than a loved one and was happy to do it. It was however, exhausting. It made me realize that when we become the primary caretaker of our spouses, parents, aunts/uncles, or other close loved one, how much hard work it really is. It’s not just caring for that person but it is also all the other stuff you need to do. Keeping the house up, eating and/or cooking meals, doing laundry, your day job (if you are still working for a living), keeping in touch with family or friends. In my case too, I also had to jump in to take care of responsibilities that Roger usually handles for us. Oh yeah, and I needed to take care of myself too…and sleep! Are there even enough hours in the day for all this? I can tell you there are not.

Several years ago, during one of our women’s events, I talked about the financial aspects of being the caretaker of a loved one with dementia and helping them handle their finances as well as the cost of care, let alone all the other stuff. I don’t think there is really anything that can prepare you for what is to come when you take on the role of primary caretaker. In addition, it can happen very suddenly as it did with us. While you don’t know the when, you can prepare for the what, so if the need arises you are at least organized. Some of the what includes a power of attorney to make financial and health care decisions as well as knowing the desires of your loved one, so you can carry out their wishes. Luckily, I didn’t have to use either of these, but we had these prepared years ago. I started bringing the actual documents to the hospital with me every day, just in case. I couldn’t prepare for how long we’d be there or what might happen, but I handled what I could.

At home, I tried to keep myself sane and I did a little bit each day. On the days I wasn’t with Roger both day and night, I made a list of small things I could do when I got home. Nothing was a big project and nothing overwhelmed me too much. Maybe it was a load of laundry or changing the sheets on the bed. Maybe it was going for a walk or returning some phone calls. Doing something was therapeutic, but doing too much could be counterproductive. I allowed myself not to get everything done, so that I could preserve some downtime, even if that was just watching 30 minutes of TV or reading a little.

I also had people reach out to me left and right to see how they could help. While we were in the hospital, there was not a lot I needed. Once Roger was discharged, I took people up on their offers. I am not one to ask anyone for help, but I realized during this time that I couldn’t do it all and keep my sanity. If people really wanted to help, they would and I needed to be OK with that. We had so much support and encouragement; it felt good to know that people were there when we needed them.

We are home now and feeling better. Roger is working hard every day to get back on his feet and feeling like himself again. It was a hard road to tow, but we know better days are ahead.

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