Saturday, November 14, 2009

Becoming a Carefree Caregiver

I knew I was destined be a caregiver the day I first met my husband’s parents who were quite some years older than my own. It became a personal calling that still adds great significance to my life.
I was lucky to have my in-laws help raise their grandchildren, allowing me to go to work without worrying. After Poppa passed away, I gave up my day job when I noticed myself parenting Nana more than I was my own children. She’d ask permission to change the toilet paper when the roll was empty or clean the carpets on her hands and knees with a scrub brush because she couldn’t figure out how to turn on the vacuum cleaner.Though it's not Alzheimer's, she has been diagnosed with dementia, which explained alot. Now we take it moment by moment and don't sweat the small stuff.
Nana’s slide into senility picked up speed just when we realized her younger brother, George, now in stage four of congestive heart failure, was not coping well on his own. Once Grampa George, as the kids always called him, finally agreed to come to our house, ‘for a few days’, I realized that without proper care he wouldn’t be with us much longer. Happily we had room to make him comfortable.
Aside from the fact that Nana and Grampa George have completely opposite schedules, I’ve become aware that I can’t do everything for them by myself. As my children have grown into their own lives, I’ve been more and more reluctant to ask them for help. I’d feel guilty for taking them away from whatever they were doing, for something that was my responsibility, a mission I’d taken on by choice.
I’m getting better at sending out an ‘all hands on deck’ e-mail if I see a scheduling conflict approaching on the calendar. If my husband has an out of town meeting, one of the kids will miss school or take time off work to take over for me. And they truly don’t mind. I’ve also stopped micromanaging everything; well, almost, the kids say. It’s been weeks since I’ve left a sticky note on the range hood with instructions on how to boil water for pasta. And guess what: we’re surviving!

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