A Team in Love

We are spouses in a caregiving marriage.  We won’t give up on each other.  We stare into each other’s eyes and see the love between us.  It’s still there.  The embers of love glow dimly, but in the darkness of caregiving, it’s all we need to see.

He doesn’t walk anymore.  He transfers from power chair to lift chair as I carefully watch and support him.  Each day is another collection of transfers and the next disaster is just a missed step or bad transfer away.

Employment has given up on both of us.  There is no magical monetary fund for the act of caregiving.  It is an enlistment in love that can last for many years or decades.  He is my employer in love and he is my career.

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The concept of time can be lost in a caregiving household.  A clock is a useless piece of furniture.  Sleep can come at different times of the day or night.  My sleep pattern depends on his and could be a few hours here and a few hours there.  I am his waitress, cook, and chauffeur.  I have learned from therapists how to give a good sponge bath.  I hold his urinal, help him “land” on the toilet, and help him with anything he needs at any time of the day or night.

Caregiving becomes your day to day existence.  There is no social life when your caregiving life requires all of your attention.  You will dearly cling to the familiar reminders of a previous life as you stay true to making your spouse’s life as easy as possible.

You will make peace with yourself each day.  You will remember each day why you are still committed. For me, it’s the smile on my husbands’ face and the laughter we share. If the tables were turned, I believe he would do the same for me. We will travel this journey together and be strong for each other when it’s difficult. We are a team in love. We are spouses in a caregiving marriage.

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6 Caregiving Lessons from a Dog

My husband has Muscular Dystrophy and requires a lot of my attention.  Our dog is a loyal companion and is always in our presence at home.  He knows when to get out of the way of the power wheelchair and he knows when to sit down at our feet.  He seems to understand our daily schedule and when different tasks must be done.  Our dog keeps us company and makes the day easier for all of us.

It’s fun to watch a dog sleep and see his legs move like he’s running in his dreams.  Our dog will do this and even wake himself up when he starts to snore.  Watching him sleep gives me a sense of calm in a busy world.  When my dog is happy and content, it makes me happy and content.  There’s a lot I can learn from this dog.  Yes, I believe my dog can teach me to be a better caregiver.

Lesson 1: A dog loves to sleep and relax.  It’s okay to relax.  A nap can do wonders for me.  I need to listen to my body when it wants to rest.  I can meditate and find ways to be quiet when I just need to step away from the world.  Finding my own Zen will help me continue being an awesome caregiver.

Lesson 2: A dog loves to eat.  My dog will follow me around the kitchen in hopes of catching whatever might drop from the counter as I cook.  We don’t eat out much anymore because restaurants are difficult for my husband.  I am a decent cook, but I need to learn ways to enjoy food more.  The trick here is to learn how to make food a great experience instead of just a basic necessity.  I need to work at feeding myself physically and spiritually to continue being an awesome caregiver.

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Lesson 3: A dog loves to scratch whatever needs to be scratched.  I can agree with this.  An itch can indicate what needs to be scratched.  Sometimes I need to get a spa pedicure to scratch the itch of being pampered.  I love to sit in a big massage chair and feel pampered.  Scratching an itch satisfies what your life may be lacking at the moment.  Listen to your itch and scratch appropriately to continue being an awesome caregiver.

Lesson 4: A dog loves to run.  Okay, this could be difficult.  Asking us to join a gym or buy a Fitbit could be unrealistic.  Caregivers already do a lot of physical work that’s not actually measurable, but done nonetheless.  I need to find a way to release energy in a therapeutic way.  I need to put some earbuds on and take a fast paced walk around the neighborhood with my dog to continue being an awesome caregiver.

Lesson 5: A dog loves to bark.  I need to chat with my friends and remember who I used to be before caregiving.  This is my time to “bark” and be sociable.  A vocal release can be extremely therapeutic and helpful for a caregiver.  Speaking with a professional counselor can also be helpful.  I believe there is also value in singing karaoke to continue being an awesome caregiver.

Lesson 6: A dog loves to bury bones and return them to you.  I need to manage the stress in my life.  It’s okay to bury some baggage that you don’t need to carry around anymore.  It’s also okay to reward yourself with little things that bring you pleasure.  Something as simple as an ice cream cone can make your day better.  I need to find balance in my caregiving world that will help me to continue being an awesome caregiver.

Is your dog teaching you how to be a better caregiver?  Our dogs watch us closely.  They show us trust and loyalty when we desperately need it.  They sense when we need help.  They take care of us and are, in fact, excellent caregivers themselves.  We only need to hear their wisdom to continue being awesome caregivers.