An alarm clock rings in the wee hours of the morning before sunrise has made an appearance. Fred the Baker rolls over and sluggishly stops the loud continual sound. With his eyes forcedly wide open he swings his legs out from under the covers and sluggishly shuffles to the bathroom where he changes into his work attire. Still moving in slow motion out the door he goes only to reappear at a bakery. All during this maneuvering to work Fred repeatedly says, “Time to make the donuts,” up until customers arrive in masses, where he greets them eagerly with a wide variety of those glazed circles and a smiling face.
Michael Vale was a classical trained actor in New York City. He had roles in many television shows, Broadway plays, and movies during the 1960 to 1980 decades yet he was best known for his role as Fred the Baker in the infamous 1980’s commercial for Dunkin Donuts. Mr. Vale played that sleep deprived mascot role for over 15 years. When he retired there was a parade in his honor and a declared free donut day. Upon his death in 2005 the company adorned their donut packaging to honor him with the words he made so famous.
Some how as a Caregiver for 4 years to my stroke/seizure survivor husband I know that there are many mornings in which I get up the same way as Fred the Baker. Instead of donuts my mantra is more like, “Time to be a care-giver.” Now, I am not a classically trained actor. The role I play 24/7 is only infamous to my stroke survivor. There is no concept of retiring as a Caregiver nor is there a thought of a declared free care-giving day. Certainly, there are means to acquire such help and there are a few friends and family that step in to assist for a few hours here or there but mostly there is not a care-giving parade passing by my way.
The journey over the past four years has been a very rocky and mountain like terrain. Each day has brought it’s own challenges. I have become accustom to daily unplanned mishaps. As well, I do not beat myself up if I don’t get everything done on schedule. Basically, care giving is the hardest job I have ever encountered. And secretly, there are mornings I give my husband a donut because it is easier than whipping up a heart healthy meal. My stroke survivor has not bounced back to a level of recovery like many do. The seizure activity or short-circuiting of his brain has created cognitive decline. Which has made it hard for him to do most things in a timely fashion. He is listed as full assist by all recent assessments. In turn, I am the one fully assisting him. I have watched him slowly digress with communication and dialect to a point he stays quiet. He sleeps more than he is physically active. Mostly he no longer wants to get up or go out. Even still, we still greet each day with hope and a semi smiling face.
To be clear, I am not trying to advertise for Dunkin Donuts, more so I am merely using the old commercial as an analogy of how I, the caregiver, feel more times than not. When I started the care-giving journey back in 2015 I eagerly jumped in with both feet. I researched, prepared, and acknowledged all that was expected of me. Vowing to be an advocate for caregivers and stroke survivors I ran full speed ahead. Today, my pace has slowed down. Don’t get me wrong, I still advocate for caregivers while researching the latest in studies. Yet I feel not much has changed in the realm of support to caregivers and this makes me question why.
Without being too brass it just seem like stroke survivors are treated for an allotted amount of time as deemed appropriate by insurance then simply sent home with no concern to how the caregiver will manage on a day to day basis. Many a conversation I have had with doctors, therapist, and programs as to the deficiency in training and assistance for the caregiver. I am astounded at how most in the field of rehab or brain injury do not have knowledge of resources available. Often, I have found more information of things like support groups available than the people being paid to know. Of course, great help is a separate issue from any financial obligation that accumulates. It seems it always goes the route of services available for the stroke survivor that may have out of pocket expenses. The caregiver has to find means to continue their life while incorporating the role of seeing after a stroke survivor. In my case, I still work but had to cut back greatly to attend to my stroke survivor. Thus, I always feel like I am moving in a zombie state of mind. I guess what I am trying to say in noting Fred the Baker is I find it interesting that a professional actor can go down in history for an advertising catch phrase implying how tiring it is to prepare donuts. Meanwhile there are caregivers all over the world working relentlessly without any kind of notoriety. Somehow, the scale seems heavily unbalanced.
In truth, my dear readers, I care give because I love my stroke survivor and know him best but it would not be a job I would apply for outside my home. So as I end my thoughts I humbly stand today applauding to honor each of you whom are Caregivers.