the beach etc
I don’t usually go to the doctor’s by myself but I did on Monday. I don’t go often as there is nothing much wrong with me. This time I had an earache that despite my best effort with OTC meds and ignoring it did not go away. So I sought some antibiotics and a little TLC.
When you have been a caregiver as long as I have, eleven years and counting, the doctor tends not to see you as a person. So I walked in and before I sat down he asked me how Ray was! I would have thought the whole point of going was to have someone concerned about me. But all he was worried about was how Ray’s caregiver was but he did give me antibiotics so I am just getting my hearing back at last.
I went again to the beach after chat this afternoon, about 80 degrees, warm and sunny,with a gentle onshore breeze. It is a nice spot and I love going there. No-one else there today so it was my beach, just me and the sand, the wind and the waves. I could sit there for hours but as I had 80 minutes and that included the drive there and back about an hour was what I had. I probably have five weeks more of nice warm weather so need to make the most of it.
I got home about the time Ray would have been home but the bus driver picks his grandkids up on Wednesdays so he dropped everyone but Ray, did a little loop and picked them up. It is good we are still “small town” enough for that to be possible. It was the Monday/Tuesday driver today as the Wednesday/Friday driver was off sick. I like it that the carers are up close and personal with the Daycare clients. Some, like Ray, have been going for a long time and it is part of their routine.
The doctor asked me how long since Ray’s first stroke – I told him 21 years now. He looked at me and said: “That is a long time for you too.” So he does recognize the work I do as a caregiver. I have to get paperwork done by him each time Ray goes for his two weeks of respite and so he does know he goes there now. Of course when Ray goes in as the patient he concentrates on Ray’s needs.
I think few people relate to the “long haul caregiver”. Mostly when we think of caregiving here we think of those who look after cancer patients and those who look after elderly parents, not so much the spouse caregivers. When I left Social Services in 1999 there were over 300,000 people in New South Wales who qualified for a Carer’s Pension, who looked after someone needing 24 hour supervision. Of course that does not figure in those who look after someone but work part-time or are self funded retirees. I don’t know what percentage of the population are caregivers but there are a lot of us out there.
Sometimes I feel sad about how life has become for us. I know we do less and less in the community and spend more and more time in the home. I guess that is inevitable with Ray now having dementia as an addition to the stroke damage, the diabetes and other minor ills the doctor hands him so many pills for. He is less and less able to relate to others now so socializing can be a painful experience for him.
My advice to others is go out when you can and while you can. It is great to have plans for good things to happen somewhere in the future but we do not know how much future we have. And good times do not have to be expensive, a picnic, a drive to a farmer’s market, a movie if the person you care for is capable of lasting the distance. There are regular activities that are pleasurable to do which don't have to cost a lot of money. I used to enjoy swimming at the heated pool, or bowling or just regular get-together with friends, I just have to look at all the possibilities.
I love to eat out once a week, with or without Ray and to spent time on the beach by myself like today. If Ray had been with me I would have gone to a different beach where he can sit in the car but still be fairly close to the water’s edge, or go down by the lake which is just a ten minute drive from here. It doesn’t have to be across the globe to be a break or a change of scenery; it can be across the road and round the corner. Anywhere that is not just looking at the same view gives you a different perspective.
Today on the beach I sat on a rock with my feet in the water and thought my own thoughts. It was not a big intellectual exercise, more a slow washing of ideas through my head. I felt in tune with the ocean, pleased to sit and do nothing for a while. I used to do that a lot in my younger days and it is one of the things I have been missing.
When winter comes I will have to find different things to do. There is an art gallery about twenty minutes drive from here and a couple of interesting old houses opened to the public. There is close by a heated pool if I decide to keep up my swimming and of course cheap eateries galore. I don’t have to be bored because I am by myself I can phone one of half a dozen old friends and get company if I want it.
Half of making life good is in the planning, the other half is allowing it to happen and allowing myself to enjoy the break.