Category Archives: Caregiver Confessions

I Confess…I Can’t Do It All.

Slide1

It finally happened.  I knew it would some day.   I just didn’t know when.  After five years as my dad’s PFC (primary family caregiver), and fifteen years as the unknowing understudy to my superhuman mother, I had the Mother Of All Meltdowns, which I shall lovingly call MOAM because the word meltdown is unflattering for anyone older than two.

My MOAM included the usual suspects: deep seeded rage, self-pity and worst of all envy.  Envy for all the real or what I perceived to be real — therefore making it real in my crazy mind — free time my sisters have to frolic through life, watching movies, meeting friends, reading books, taking vacations, living lives centered around their needs and wants!  Yes, I know this sounds juvenile, petty, and darn right horrible.  And, I’m not delusional.  I know they aren’t living these idealized lives.  They are busy like every other person on this planet.  And, to be honest, I almost didn’t write about my MOAM since 99.99% of the time I find helping my dad to be the most rewarding part of my life.  I know that my father’s stable health and happiness, at 93 years of age, is a direct result of my actions, combined with his good fortune in the genetic lottery, and his optimistic outlook on life.

At first I attributed my MOAM to going back to work full-time and getting the stomach flu while my husband — who NEVER travels — was out-of-town for almost two weeks.  But, in reality my MOAM was slowly brewing for the past year and I ignored all the warning signs…exhaustion, sleepless nights wondering how to juggle everything for everybody, resentment toward my siblings for not helping, though I never asked for help.

Then one day, I let it rip!!!  And the unsuspecting victim was my sweet sister who, like they say in crime movies, happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time.  With the innocent words, “Hi…how are you?” I unleashed my MOAM.  “How am I?  You really want to know, how I am?  I’m done!  I’m exhausted!  I can’t do it anymore.  I’ve had it.  I do it ALL!  It’s your turn!”  There were a few more declarations made during my MOAM but you get the point.  I give my sister credit, she switched on her calm maternal voice, the kind preschool teachers use to reason with toddlers before timeout is issued.  Then the words, I so wanted to hear came over the phone, “How can I help you?”  That’s all I wanted to hear, how could someone help me.

It’s been a few months since my MOAM forced me to ask for help and admit I couldn’t do it all.  I’m happy to report that things have greatly improved.  My sister visits once a month to take care of my weekend tasks and spend time with my dad.  Knowing I have a free weekend is like knowing you have a vacation in the horizon…something to look forward to when things are crazy.  My husband takes my dad for his monthly haircut (it’s their guy thing) and continues to help in countless other ways.  After five years in assisted living, my dad finally used their car service to go to the dentist on his own.  Delegating has freed up my time and also gives my dad an opportunity to spend time with other people, which is good for both of us.  Plus, my dad has more independence, which is a good thing and something I should take advantage of as long as I can.

I see this post as a public service announcement.  If you are the primary family caregiver ask for help before you burnout and have a meltdown.  If you are lucky enough to have a sibling who is the primary family caregiver, volunteer to help before the shit hits the fans and your kind and capable sibling meltdown and you are left to mop of the mess.

Quick Update: Betty and Her Senior Dog

Thank you for the feedback on my November 12th post, “Suggestions Needed: Senior Dogs and Their Older Owners.”  You’ll be happy to know that I met with the General Manager at my dad’s assisted living community and he is aware of the situation with “Betty” and her sweet senior dog.  The GM actually met with Betty’s family to discuss the welling of the dog and they’ve come up with an initial plan.

Everyone, and that include our four-legged friends, deserves to be safe and happy in their old age.

Enlisting Holiday Help from Siblings

Based on my personal experience, and from what I see at my dad’s ALF, there is usually one adult child designated as the caregiver.

I’ve read countless stories that give advice on how the primary caregiver should elicit help from her/his siblings.  I understand in theory why this is a good thing.  One person shouldn’t carry the brunt of responsibility, if they can share the workload with siblings.  But the honest truth is, there are a million reasons why this concept doesn’t work: some siblings don’t have the skills, some don’t have the desire to help, some don’t live close enough, some need help themselves, and the list goes on and on.

But, the holidays offer a chance for siblings to help in a way that hopefully works for everyone.  Find something that your siblings like doing and that you feel comfortable delegating.  And, the hardest part of all, ask for help.

In my case, my sister Janice loves everything about the holidays…decorating, shopping, baking, hosting parties, cards, etc.  So this year she’s going to decorate my dad’s room, buy his gifts, and join him at some holiday activities.  She’s happy and I’m thrilled!

Suggestions Needed: Senior Dogs And Their Older Owners

My husband and I have a soft spot in our hearts for older dogs.  We’ve adopted three Chihuahua’s over the years from a wonderful rescue organization.  All our dogs were estimated to be about seven years of age at the time of adoption.

So this love of older dogs is causing a moral dilemma for me and I’d like your suggestions on what to do.

There’s a resident who lives at the assisted living community where my father resides.  Let’s call her Beth since I’m not actually sure what her name is.  Beth seems friendly but not always aware of her surroundings and actions.  Yesterday I saw her pulling her dog (who is old and very sweet) down the hallway like it was a sled.  And, I’ve seen her mindlessly pull the dog up the spiral staircase to the point of elongating the dog’s neck as they walked.

I’m sure Beth loves her dog.  But, I’m afraid the dog is going to get hurt.  Or, equally worrisome, that Beth is going to fall when tugging at the dog.  I’m so torn.  It’s none of my business.  But, on the other hand, I don’t want to sit silently waiting for something bad to happen.  What should I do?

 

 

Can A Caregiver Be A Germaphobe?

I will do, and pretty much have done, everything possible to keep my 93-year-old dad happy and healthy.  Those of you who are the family caregiver can probably rattle off a list of things you never thought you would do; but when the time comes you step up, shut up and get it done.  This should be the caregivers’ creed: step up, shut up, get it done.

Well the flu is traveling the halls of my dad’s assisted living community and sure enough he caught it.  For my dad a cold is synonymous with pneumonia.  The germs bypass sore throat, sniffles and runny nose.  They go right to gunkie (I don’t think this is a medical term.  It may not even be a word.  But, you get the point.) cough, projectile sneezing, shortness of breadth, ashen coloration and poor sleep, which immediately diminish his cognitive abilities causing a dazed look to take over his once alert face.

Don’t get worried.  With care from an amazing medical team, a round of strong antibiotics, cough syrup, and the use of the miracle nebulizer 3x’s a day to help him breath, he’s back to his old self.

I am thrilled he’s healthy again!  For his sake and mine.  You see…I’m a bit of a germaphobe.  Since becoming responsible for my dad, I’ve turned into a Purell carrying, hand washing, disinfecting wipe, antibacterial loving type of gal.  I think being a germaphobe comes with being a caregiver, since caring means doing whatever possible to keep germs away.

During the month it took him to recuperate, I had to check my germaphobic tendencies at the door and walk into his room knowing a million tiny germs were flying around just waiting to take me down.  I tried to get him to sneeze into his elbow, sleeve or a tissue, but each sneeze seemed to come faster than he could react.  I washed and sanitized the mouthpiece to his nebulizer three times a day.  I picked up tissues.  I gave up, stepped up, shut up and got the job done.  Goodbye and good riddance pneumonia of 2014.

 

Photo Credit: iStock