Both of my parents are in their mid to late 70s. While they have some of the same health issues most senior citizens deal with when they get older, my dad in particular has been on dialysis for 10 years now. That has brought a heavy-duty amount of challenges primarily for him but also for the people who love and care for him.
Along with long-term dialysis for my dad has come the neuropathy issues in his hands and feet, as well as the fact that he can barely see unless a room is well-lit. He’s gone from being able to walk on his own while on dialysis to needing a cane to now relying on a walker every time he gets up.
Mom, too, has her own health issues that she’s addressing, but fortunately for the most part they don’t impact her mobility. I can tell, however, that the years my dad has been on dialysis has not just taken a toll on his body, but on hers as well – not just physically but emotionally. It’s impacted me, too, in ways I find hard to describe but will try to do so as best I can here.
At some point over the last 10 or so years, I became a part-time caregiver to them, though mom has shouldered the lion’s share of taking care of dad. As the years went on and dad’s health problems increasingly presented challenges, I took a more active role in helping her take care of him and their house responsiblities to the point where I’m now a full-time caregiver even though I don’t live with them.
By “full time” I mean that in addition to the 10 or so days a month I spend with them (used to be 15 or more before the pandemic started) helping with responsibilities around the house and errand running, I’m also “on-call” in case needed for a trip to the ER or in the event dad takes a tumble at the house and requires the assistance of the fire dept. or medics to get back on his feet.
Over the last 8 months, dad has had to go to a physical rehab facility twice for an extended period of time. The first one was after a bad fall he suffered right before Christmas, and the other was after a bout of vertigo he experienced in May. Both instances forced him to be bedridden, which made his strength take a downward turn.
Both times he was at the physical rehab facilities this year, I stayed with my mom because she doesn’t like being alone – with the first time being for two and a half months and the other being roughly a month. She’s told me that she can “deal with” being by herself when dad is at these places, but I know she’s just putting on a brave front. Plus, it scares me to think of her being by herself. Because she wears me out just watching everything she does even when dad is not around, I decided to stick around to continue to help her handle the responsibilities she needed to and to be a shoulder to lean on.
It’s difficult to put into words the emotional pain a caregiver goes through, especially when that caregiver also happens to be a family member. Every day you do what you can to make things more comfortable, to ensure a quality of life is maintained, but at the end of the day you go to bed knowing that there’s nothing you can do to make the physical pain of your loved one go away.
I have told my mom more times than I can count how I wish there was a way I could wrap my arms around both of them to take away the pain so they could get back to doing the things they used to in life. I have watched at times when my dad has dozed off in his recliner and noticed how peaceful he looks, and have prayed that he finds the peace in sleeping that he can’t when he’s awake and forced to deal with the health issues he has to every day.
Needless to say, many tears have been shed over the course of my time as a caregiver, with some being from sadness, or anger, or anguish, or a combination of all of them. Though I’m in the middle of it with what I do, I still sometimes feel like I’m on the outside looking in, only being able to do so much while time and the various medical problems take their inevitable tolls on my mom and dad.
I rely a lot on the power of prayer. I say them often and I request them often. Knowing there are others who are keeping your family members in their thoughts and prayers is everything, so keep that in mind the next time you see someone post a prayer request on social media. It means more to them than you’ll ever know.
That’s about all I have to say about this topic for now. My next caregiver’s diary entry will be about caregiver’s guilt, so stay tuned.
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