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The hard yards



It is strange watching someone else do the hard yards. As a long term caregiver for a stroke survivor I sometimes thought of myself as unique - well no, there are 50,000 of us just in my state who are caregivers listed as 24/7 and so entitled to a small allowance. It used to be called a "Domiciliary Nursing Allowance" and was given to people who basically were doing home nursing. I got that for a number of years as Ray got to the stage where he had to be showered etc. So I was certainly NOT unique!


My next door neighbour has his elderly father living with him and brings him over here to shower him every few days. He uses the shower room that was purpose built for Ray, a room in which the person to be showered sits on a stool or in a shower chair with space all round so with a flexible hose he/she can be showered from all sides. My neighbour does this with a minimum of fuss. His dad emerges clean, in clean clothes and as chirpy as ever. No fuss.


My neighbour has been on his own for years and is struggling with all the usual issues entailed in housing and looking after a frail aged person with limited abilities. Some days he comes over for a few minutes and shares his present worries with me knowing that I have been there and done that. He has a much less emotional, more practical approach to looking after his Dad than I had with Ray but has very similar problems so I am able to make some suggestions for making care easier for him. But he also works full-time from home so he is working 10am till 7pm with a couple of breaks for meals in order to keep his income flowing in. It is certainly hard to do that.


Like me he has others in the family who he had hoped would take turns in looking after his Dad as that had been the original agreement. Of course that is not happening and there have been no weekend breaks where the others have taken over care and so his breaks are few. One solution is he returns his dad to his original home and one brother calls in twice a day for a couple of days. This is limited of course so he is now looking for respite and having the usual guilty feelings about not being able to do 24/7 care for as long as it takes. The physical and mental side of looking after someone who needs 24/7 care we all know about here but it is strange looking at it from the outside as I do now.


I am just rolling along, going with the flow as I have learned from Asha. Yes, I do have some problems but they are not pressing ones and I am managing to sleep through some nights. I miss Trev and family and have the usual worries about my other son but on the whole I am okay. I did have a bit of a melt-down on Sunday night. I had been with some friends, all couples, all discussing Valentine's Day, what they had given or been given, what they had done together. As a widow there were no phone calls, no cards, no presents, nothing at all happening it was another nothing day for me. But that will happen now.


I am slowly assessing what I need to keep in my life and what I want to let go of. I need to do a major declutter of the house, maybe rearranging the paperwork from one room to another is not what I need to do, more of getting it to leave the house all together is what I need to do. I confess I am a pack rat and it pains me to get rid of books I have reread a dozen times, clothes I might one day fit into and some of my older furniture that is not as functional as it used to be but still has sentimental value. Yes, it is time for a clean-up while the weather is cooler and before wet and windy winter keeps me inside.


The garden too needs a tidy up and I am finally going to get rid of part of an old wire fence that is full of grass and old vines. I started that yesterday and filled our green waste bin in a couple of hours. It was humid yesterday so I had a couple of showers and finished the day squeaky clean. Today I can feel all those muscles that you use for pulling out long grass and not much else. If you are looking at snow think of your July and you will know where I am at right now.


My children are over looking at me as a widow who needs some consolation now. I am just "Mum is on her own now" as my daughter put it.So all assume that if there is no emergency I am doing fine. Yes I am, fine but often lonely or feeling out of step with the rest of the world. As we know caregivers lose friends and the longer you care the longer you are out of the loop. But that's life and we jut have to make the best of it.


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We Americans are so lost --- we specifically WILL NOT pay "family" to care for the loved one - we have to have "unrelated" individuals come in.. i wish our health care / social system could get one thing right.....you seem to be adjusting - slow, of course.... but forward, steps.... nancyl

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I have thought many times how I would function without having to be a caregiver. I keep thinking I would be able to re-connect with my friends and do more of the things I use to do. I would make new friends maybe. But even that would be hard to do at this stage of my life. I have been where you are - a widow, but at an early age. It was hard to start over even then as most of my friends were married. I think the hardest part is the adjustment to where you were before and where you are now.


Keep doing what you are doing and enjoy your family. I realize that family is the one lasting thing in most of our lives. Friends can come and go.



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