Good Morning Caregivers

superpower

When I was a young mother I often wished I knew what my babies were thinking. I wanted to know what the world looked to them, how it felt to be so dependent. Were there moments when they felt alone and wondered how they had landed in this place so different from what they had come to know? When did they recognize me as someone who loved them and would protect them always?

Caring for Rodger I wished again for that same super power. I never received the ability to read minds but I never stopped trying to figure out how to keep him warm, comfortable, and safe. Some days the things I tried worked, some days they didn’t. There were days many days when my actions confused and frustrated him. But there were also many when he recognized me as someone who loved him and would protect him always. Love and care are the super powers we have and that dear caregiver is everything to them regardless of their age or needs.  Be proud of who you are and what you do.

If you have a super power, or wish you did, tell us about it here.

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Good Morning Caregivers

A Caregiver’s Dream

One of the most common bits of advice for caregivers is to get a good night’s sleep.

“Goodnight.”

What wonderful images that simple word brings to mind.  I close my eyes and see myself drifting off to sleep in the biggest most comfortable bed on the market. I’m covered with a whisper soft blanket. I’m hugging my pillow. A tiny smile hints at sweet dreams to come.  When morning arrives I will awake refreshed ready to face another day caring for my loved one.

That is what I was supposed to do, right? That’s what all the experts said.  Trust me, it’s what I would l have loved to do.

Enter reality:

“Goodnight, Rodger.”  “Goodnight.”

It was eight o’clock in the evening and he had just had his last breathing treatment of the day. Only one round of medications was left to be taken. I had two hours to spend some time with my husband. We were exhausted and only half listening to each other.  I kept one ear open in case Rodger needed me. Nodding at my husband to indicate I was paying attention, I was also fighting to keep my eyes open.

At 10:00PM I got up and took Rodger his last medication of the night.  He took it without complaint. Yea!

“Goodnight, Rodger.” “Goodnight.” I was too tired to brush my teeth. Tomorrow was another day and I hadn’t had much to eat anyway. Did I take a shower in the morning? I couldn’t remember.  I’d do that in that the next day too.  After saying my prayers I closed my eyes and waited for sleep to come. My thoughts looped and circled around on themselves. What ifs and why didn’t I competed with I should have until I finally lost consciousness.

12:15 AM – His bed alarm went off. He hated the alarm. He hated the bedside commode and he resented me for making him use them. I ran down the hall to discover he had scooted down to the foot of the bed and managed to squeeze through the space between the bedrail and the foot of the bed.  He was clinging to the rail, trying to keep from falling.

“Here, let me help you.”  I eased him over to the commode and helped him stand to pee. He refused to sit.  “I’m not a girl!”

“Why didn’t you call me if you wanted to get up?”

“I didn’t want to bother you. I used my short cut.”

“Short cut?” It took me a few moments to understand he was talking about the gap between the bedrail and the end of the bed.

“You aren’t supposed to get up unless someone is with you. You could fall. That’s why the doctor ordered an alarm for your bed.”

“The doctor sent it?”

“He explained it when you saw him last month?”

‘I don’t remember. How does he know if I go to the bathroom? It’s none of his business.”

Five minutes later we were both back in bed.

12:45 AM– His bed alarm went off.  That time he tried to climb over the rail and was stuck half way.

“What are you doing?”

“I have to pee.” I got him up and helped him to the commode. He stood for a couple of minutes. Nothing happened.

“I thought I had to go.” We went back to bed. 2:00 AM – The bed alarm went off. He was stuck half way out of the bed again. We repeated the scene above.  2:10 AM – Alarm went off again. His foot is stuck in the rail.  3:05 AM – Alarm went off again. He had scooted down to the foot of the bed and was trying to get up.

“I have to pee.” That time he did. 3:15 AM – Alarm went off again.  “I’m thirsty.”   I went to the kitchen and mixed some thickener in water and helped him spoon it into his mouth.

4:00 AM – He was calling for me.  I rushed to room. His covers were tangled around him and he couldn’t move.  I got him into a chair and arranged his bedding.  Had him pee while we were up. 5:15 AM – The bed alarm went off again. I knew I was up for the day.

The next day, and the next, and the days after that? Repeat the above actions from the beginning.  Sometimes it was the voices that woke him.  Some nights he thought it was day and he was ready to start his routine.

Believe me, I followed all the suggestions, I kept him up during the day. It didn’t matter. I put him in adult pull-ups so he didn’t have to use the bedside commode. I’d find them torn to shreds the next time I went to his room.   I followed all the advice about soothing music and quiet time before bed. I tried it all again and there we were night after night. Sometimes I made a bed for myself on the floor beside him so he knew he was not alone.  Still the alarm went off through the night.Get a good night’s sleep? I was ready. I even drifted off for a while, and then his bed alarm went off.  Again.

Caregivers do need a good night’s sleep and they know your suggestions are well intended and sincere. What they want you to know is that it’s not that simple. Their days and nights are full, minute to minute, crisis to crises.  So if you are wondering how to help a caregiver my suggestion is a gift certificate for a few hours of respite each week so she or he can take a nap.

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Good Morning Caregivers

 

Lord for those who are hurting

My prayer for you today. Blessed be.

 

 

Good Morning Caregivers

I’m still running a little late. This cold is getting better but I’m still sleeping later than usual. I know you don’t have that opportunity when you are not well so today I am sending you a hug. The good thing about sending it this way is I won’t pass on any of my germs.
hug time

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Good Morning Caregivers

 

go quiet when things are hard

So often as a caregiver I felt overwhelmed. What did I miss? What could I have done different? Where did I fail him? I’m quite sure you are not much different.  I’m not going to tell you not to feel that way. It won’t change anything. It seems that second guessing ourselves is part of living with these terrible diseases. What I hope to do is help you through it. One the hard days, and there are many, try to remember this, “more action is not needed to create order and peace.”

Go quiet, even if it’s just for a moment, and know you are doing the right thing,

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Good Morning Caregivers

 

how do you feel today

Leave a message in the comment section and let me know how you are doing.  I hope there is a smile in your day today.

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Good Morning Caregivers

 

 

not all heroes wear uniforms

You are my heroes, every one. Thank you for all you do for others.

 

 

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Sometimes Caregiving Looks Like This

Pull Up Big Girl Panties

There were days when I felt more like the mean girl than the patient saint some believe caregivers to be. I didn’t want to do it any more. I got mad. I hollered back when he shouted at me. I regretted it the moment it happened but let’s be honest, this is what caregiving is like some days.

I have to admit I never looked that good when going through it. I more closely resembled the image below, right down to the scraggly plumage. But, I couldn’t resist posting this image. I love her attitude.

Rough Week

 

It is critical that we address the realities of caregiving  and not sugar coat it.We have to do everything we can to support the over 65,000,000 caregivers in this country and the millions more who will become caregivers very soon.

 November is National Caregivers Month. The President has issued a proclamation in support of caregivers. Caregiver conferences are being held across the country. It’s time to talk less and provide more help. Our legislators would do well to read caregiver support sites and hear from the caregivers themselves. Feel free to start by sending them a link to my blog.

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NaBloPoMo November 2014

If You Stumble …

if you stumble

“You must be a saint.”

I heard that I a lot when I was caring for Rodger. Always from people who were not caregivers themselves. Rodger would have been the first to agree with the response I always gave.

“I’m no saint.”

Caregivers know there is nothing saintly about us or what we do.  I  lost my patience, became angry on occasion, felt put upon for all the changes in my life, and often prayed for the strength to make it through another day. I stumbled often and denigrated myself for doing so.

I didn’t understand that stumbling along is the only way either of us could move through the challenges. Ours was not a lovely choreographed waltz through life.  Raucous and primitive the music of dementia demands unpredictable movement and uncomfortable positions. Falling from time to time is a requirement  allowing us time to take a much-needed breath and identify the ever-changing rhythm before grasping hands and continuing on.

The fault here is not in our movement, it is in the mistaken belief that every step must be perfect for the dance to hold beauty.

Caregivers, my message to you today is, be kind to yourself.  “When you stumble make it part of the dance.”

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I Knew It Would be Hard But …

taking-a-test

We thought we knew what to expect. Having an elderly parent living with us would change our life, we knew that. We also knew that Rodger was quirky and had a number of health issues.

“It will be hard but we can do it.” Mike and I agreed. “He will improve in our care.” Boy oh boy were we mistaken.

As his primary caregiver I soon learned that I had a lot to learn and I had better learn it fast.  I needed to understand his medications and their possible side effects and interactions. I had to recognize that often he reacted exactly opposite of the norm. If a medication came with a warning that it caused drowsiness he would be up all night. Add a medication to lower his blood pressure and it would soar. It was weird and frightening.

I had to learn that he was often secretive and hid his symptoms when ill or in pain.  Over time his illnesses increased in number and severity. What the heck is sundowning and why was he so aggressive in the evening?  What happens when mental illness and dementia combine? Would he harm himself?  How could I convince the doctor he had Parkinson’s disease when he stopped shaking and sat up straight and told the man I worry too much and not to pay attention to me?

I had to learn how to convince medical personnel to listen to me, not him, when answering questions about his behavior or the newest setback in his ability to remember or reason. He forgot or he lied, it didn’t matter which.  The fact is he tried hard to fool them and often succeeded.

“She’s crazy,” he would tell them. Often it was close to the truth.

I didn’t try the same thing over and over expecting a different result as we know is sign of insanity. I became as creative as I could be when problem solving. I was ever vigilant in watching for unexpected symptoms. Still,many times I was close to losing my mind in frustration.  When no matter what I did and no matter how hard I tried he kept getting worse I had to learn I could not stop this process. I had to learn that by giving him more good days then he would have had otherwise was the best I could do and that was enough. That’s a test I could not have studied for. I had to live it. I had to learn that he was unique and while many aspects of caregivning are the same, every person is different.

Caregiving is a test we can’t study for. It’s by sharing our stories and our unique ways of problem solving that we learn and I am grateful for each and every one of you who shares a bit of your journey with the rest of us. I’d love to hear from you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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