It’s ironic that my last, yes last, blog for Tough Conversations should be about my becoming a caregiver. Writing about it, including ‘remote’ caregiving, is easy. It’s way different when you’re caregiving up close and personal.
Short story: In February my wife fell and broke her femur…in two places. Two days after a surgeon put it back together with a steel rod, she was about to begin physical therapy. Then she had a stroke. Her third. After a week lying on her back in the stroke unit, the hospital (thankfully) moved her to its Acute Rehabilitation Unit where she received intensive therapy and learned how to walk again. Not too strongly, but enough to be discharged safely.
What the hospital couldn’t treat was her 24/7 dizziness. She had had dizziness from an earlier stroke, but this time it really whacked her.
She’s been home about two months and is receiving vestibular therapy which (we hope) will diminish, if not eliminate, her dizziness. For those of you who live with this condition, you know that it impacts everything you do. And it saps one’s energy.
I have to admit that my wife’s condition is not half as serious as most persons who need family care giving. She’s can manage her ADLs.* We go for walks and share some household chores. But like others who need support, she can’t be left alone…for now.
I am not complaining. I am thankful she’s getting stronger. We have a network of willing friends, ready to help out, visit, and run errands. We’re members of a Village (For those of you who don’t know about Villages check www.vtvnetwork.org.). But I want to share some of the lessons most other caregivers already know:
1. Attitude is all. It’s easy to understand why some caregivers become bitter. There’s little time for oneself. But maintaining a positive attitude can sweeten the sourest of moments.
2. Know how and when to advocate. Google all those medical terms the professionals throw at you. Study up on your loved one’s medications, especially if they have adverse effects (most do). Go to doctor’s appointments armed every question you can conjure.
3. Accept help. At first I thought I could do it all. A few days later that illusion disappeared.
4. And ask for help. This is not the time for Stoic self-reliance. If you have sources of support, enlist them.
No doubt you out there who care give can think of oodles of others. This is just for starters.
I’ve enjoyed our correspondence over the past ten years. Thank you for reading our blogs and for sharing your thoughts.
*ADL = Activities of Daily Living