This is Me…

I had introduced Joe, but I think it’s time to introduce me.

I’m old now, a real card carrying member of the senior set. This seems strange to me… what happened to my life while I was living it? I’ve certainly been busy, too busy to notice what was going on with me. I’ve really been through a lot during my life and I hope some of that will come through these pages to help others.

I’m a daughter of an alcoholic. That alone sets your life up for struggles in the future. I was born late in my parents life, so by the time I graduated from High School my dad already had two heart attacks. Shortly after I graduated my mom started having strokes and seizures. Helping to take care of them set me up for the caregiving role. Yup, I started early. After dad had his first heart attack my brother had a bad car accident and his whole family (wife and two small children) came to live with us. My mom and sister-in-law got jobs in the evening at the same hospital, same shift, different jobs. So after school I had to come home, help my dad and brother and look after my small niece and nephew. Dinner (for all), baths and bed for the kiddies. Fetching and carrying for the men. After a year or two everyone got better, my brother and family moved out.

Once I was married I was still caregiving. Our first son was born a year and a half after we married and I took to being a mother and a wife naturally. I was already a proven caregiver!

My moms health slowly deteriorated over the years and my dad would call me to help with her, for baths and such. By this time I was working a full time job with two elementary age children. When mom went into the hospital (which was a lot) she would get agitated when she was having seizures so the hospital would call and I would go and sit with mom and calm her down. She died a few years after that and dad died three years later. I was in my early thirties.

Life kept rolling along until 1999 when Joe was diagnosed with his brain tumor. I’ve already told you what that was like (Introducing Joe), but the 16 years really took a toll on my life. Recovery has been hard.

Don’t think that stress and worry won’t tell on you later in life, cause it will. I tried to take care of myself spiritually and mentally while taking care of Joe, but let the physical go. To tell the truth, I was too tired to even think about doing more than brushing my teeth and falling into bed. Trying to get the minimum amount of rest and keeping my sanity and serenity took all I had. This last 5 (almost 6) years, I’ve spent trying to get my physical self better. It’s been hard and I have a long way to go.

If you are in the middle of your caregiving, try to take care of yourself. I can see now that I was too busy taking care of others to even think about me. It seemed selfish if I thought about it at the time, but I can see now, with 20/20 hindsight, that I should have been a bit more selfish. I don’t regret a thing that I’ve done except not doing more for me. That’s a regret that will stay with me for a while.

Find Some Help

When Joe’s condition worsened and he really needed someone to stay with him during the day I was starting to panic. I couldn’t stop working because at that time I was supporting not only Joe and myself, but also my son and his family. They helped with Joe and kept an eye on him, however, they had two young children that were autistic. This mix worked for the most part. My son and Joe didn’t always get along and the grandchildren were, well, children. They were noisy and messy. This caused some friction, but we got through it. My son and his wife were not really up to giving Joe a shower, for example.

After one of Joe’s hospitalizations the social worker at the hospital made an appointment to come over with a Department of Aging person. Now, Joe died at 58 so he wasn’t elderly, but, the Department of Aging also works with the disabled population. We live in Pennsylvania and I found out that PA loves her elderly and disabled. Through this talk I found out that we were eligible for home care aides and even a chair lift for the steps. Since they went by Joe’s income and not mine, we qualified. We received a chair lift (custom made for our steps) and daily aides that came in to take care of Joe’s daily needs. Joe wasn’t always happy with the aides (see previous post) but I was so relieved that I could count on someone to always be with him.

The help that these agencies can give you is different in each state. As I said, PA loves it’s aging and disabled but not all states do. One good place to start would be at your person’s doctor. See if they can refer you to a Department of Aging or other resource in your area. Just getting on the computer and doing a little research can help. In just a few moments I found Caregiver Resources & Long-Term Care on the Department of Health and Human Services page. Networking isn’t as strange as it sounds. You know, that friend of a friend that knows someone that received help from an agency. Keep your ears open and ask your friends and acquaintances if they know of an agency. If you are a member of a church, let them know of your need and someone there may know of a resource.

If you are in need of help, let someone know; a doctor, counselor, a good friend. Don’t keep struggling on your own. There are places you can go for help.