Caregiving is hard. And I suck at it.
There. I said it.
I am not great at caregiving.
Despite what you may think from some of my blog posts, I am not a very good caregiver. Some days I barely muddle through.
Some days I don’t wake her up until ten so I can have an extra hour or two to myself.
Some days breakfast is microwaved. Every two weeks I make a large casserole (hash browns, sausage, peppers, onions, mushrooms, and cheese with eggs poured on top), so I can microwave some for breakfast. Other days I serve Greek yogurt with fresh fruit and granola. Casserole or yogurt, that’s what’s for breakfast around here. Nothing fancy. Rarely do I cook her fresh eggs and bacon, pancakes, or French toast.
Some mornings I rely on the cameras to be sure she’s still asleep while I sneak to Chick-fil-A for breakfast sandwich to go. Chicken biscuit, hash browns, and Dr. Pepper are my drugs of choice. They get me going before I get her going. (She doesn’t like Chick-fil-A for breakfast, so I don’t bring her any. I fix her yogurt on those days.)
After she eats breakfast, I used to do an exercise video with her. She didn’t really like doing it, so we quit. Now I just encourage her to “read or work on your paperwork,” while I do things I need to do do. Like brush my teeth or sneak a quick shower.
When she’s bored with books or worksheets, I give her a basket of laundry to fold. Hers, mine, or the basket of clean towels I keep on hand for her to fold. Doesn’t matter. It’s something for her to do. She’s meticulous about folding towels. And standing, reaching into the basket, and the act of folding are good for her physically.
Lunch is often leftovers or a sandwich with chips and raw carrots. Sometimes lunch is frozen pizza, tacos from a drive thru, or burgers from my favorite local joint. Lunch is never a freshly cooked meal served on a beautiful plate. It’s usually served on a paper plate.
After lunch we sometimes run errands. I go though the drive thru whenever possible. She walks so slow and she shuffles. She gets anxious in new places. It takes forever to get through the grocery store.
I suggest that she take a nap some afternoons because I am tired and want alone time. Other days I turn on an old musical like “Sound of Music” or “My Fair Lady” to keep her busy a few hours while I pay bills, make phone calls, or mow our property.
I keep frozen meals to serve with a simple salad on nights I don’t want to cook her dinner. Takeout pizza is a staple around here.
Meals may be silent. She has nothing to say anymore and some days I don’t feel like carrying on yet another one-sided conversation. I put on her favorite music to cover the silence while I read.
Some nights I serve dinner at five so I can put her to bed at six.
I forgot to give her night meds two weeks ago.
Though it may not look like I do much during the day, I’m often exhausted and just plain done by the time I finally get her in bed.
I get her up each morning, help her dress, feed her, encourage her to do things to keep her mind active, take her to the bathroom every few hours, try to understand what she needs or is looking for, make sure she drinks enough, stay alert to her moods and try to ward off anxiety, get her night meds, and help her dress and get ready for bed.
Most days I do these things cheerfully and willingly.
But there are days when I muddle through in silence. Days when she’s ugly or rude from the moment she wakes up. Days she’s so confused I have to give her instructions on how to use the toilet. Days when she gives looks that could kill a charging rhino. And there are days when I want to cry because she had no idea who I am or why I am the only person “who works here.” Those days I do these things in mostly silence. On those days the thoughts in my head should not come out of my mouth.
I don’t entertain her all the time. I’m not always chipper and sweet. Sometimes I barely make it through the day and polite is as good as it gets.
Caregiving is hard.
I am not a great caregiver.
There is a lot involved in being a caregiver. I can do all of it some of the time. Some of the time I can do it all. But I can not do all of it all of the time.
And I don’t have to do it all. I know where to get help.
Through a local Home Health Agency, we have a Shower Aide twice weekly. Paid for by Medicare.
A nurse comes every Friday to check on us. She fills the Med boxes and orders any needed refills. If any appointments are needed with specialists, she arranges them. Also paid for by Medicare.
I hired a caregiver through an agency who comes every Monday for four hours. Sherry and E work together to change E’s sheets and clean her room. E dusts and vacuums while Sherry cleans het bathroom. Together they put away the clean clothes E folded that morning. Then Sherry takes E to a local community center for an exercise class and to listen to Karaoke after class. They always stop at Sonic for a treat on the way home.
A dear friend comes twice each week to spend a couple of hours with E. She helps E do brain stimulating activities like sorting cards and the activity books I created for E. She also takes E on adventures like to an art gallery, the public library, and the farmer’s market.
Yes, I feel guilty that I don’t take her those places. But I’m tired. And, at times, I get tired of her. I have no desire to take her to a museum. She walks so darn slow! My friend is not tired. And she doesn’t mind walking slow. She is a wonderful Companion for E.
Two homeschool families come for Reading Lessons. One on Monday morning and one on Thursday afternoon. Both have beautiful, delightful children who need help with their reading. E loves children and, as a former teacher, is good at helping them read. She is kind and patient. She is soft-spoken and gentle with her corrections. She is a much better reading teacher than I am a caregiver.
I am grateful for the help these people give me.
Caregiving is hard.
I am not great at it
But I am good enough.
E is loved and safe. She is fed, bathed, and clothed. She has excellent healthcare. She is entertained and her brain is stimulated. She has regular visitors and feels needed when helping children read. She goes on adventures. She listens to music and watches favorite old movies. She helps clean her room and fold her laundry, both activities cause her to feel useful.
It’s okay that she does some of those things with paid helpers and friends. It okay that I don’t do it all.
Yes, caregiving is hard. No, I’m not a great caregiver, but I’m definitely good enough.