In this final guest post from Sally, she talks about her new life and the necessity for caring for herself both physically and emotionally.

What the Caregiver Needs – A Guest Post from Sally

Eventually my husband and I got into a routine and things settled down.  We found our “new normal.”  Then, invariably, out of nowhere something new would happen: seizures, pneumonia, bladder infections.  Sometimes it seemed as though we spent more time at doctors’ offices and hospitals than we did at home.

I have observed that because I spend so much time in the world of the “sick,” I really strive for good health.  I think I am likely to either become a hypochondriac or a health nut.  (I try to be the latter.)

I have to be honest – I do not want to ever be in the position my husband is in.

Besides, I don’t have a wife who would care for me.  (Although, I often think it would be nice if we had an extra wife around!)

I have always been a person who messes up until right at the last-minute and then somehow I straighten things out.  In other words, I learn the hard way.  I know this is one important way my husband’s illness has affected me.  Over the course of my life, I have done so many things trying to stay skinny and look better and have basically ignored how I felt.  Now, as I am in my “golden” years, I am trying to make up for all the years of abuse.

I now fight hard to pay attention to how I feel instead of what I look like.  I am trying to be healthy and strong.  Not just so that I can be a better caretaker, but for me.  After all, I have no one but me to take care of myself.

Beyond caring for myself physically, I have had to make decisions about my emotional well-being that have probably hurt other people in my life who I love.  I do not get to do all the things I would like, but I am trying to live as active a life as I can.

I moved us to an environment where I can function.  In leaving the city where we had lived for more than three decades, I left a lot of love behind.  But, I also left behind anger at the life I could no longer have.  Some nights I wonder if I did the right thing, but as I walk in the beautiful sunshine of our retirement area, I know I did what I had to do to survive.

We left behind friends and family and a shared history, but together we are making a new history for ourselves.

Where we live now, I don’t resent my husband because we cannot participate in things we used to do.  We do new things here.  We have people in our lives who did not know my husband before his stroke, so they accept him for who he is now.

We live in an area with a wonderful infrastructure for people like my husband.  Here, we can visit friends because all of the homes are one-level and built with accessibility in mind.  We go to movies, concerts, shows and church services that are set up for the hard of hearing.  Here, we have a life.  It’s a life that does not impose on our children or our friends.

Another benefit to being in a retirement area is that we are surrounded by caregiver groups.  We know many other stroke patients here and also people who suffer from other illnesses.  In other words, when we are here we are not the only red marbles in a vase of blue marbles.

This ability to “have a life” is what keeps me going and gives me strength.  Living here means that I can live a life without resenting his limitations.  And because of that, I have reached a level of contentment.

I no longer try to force him to get better. It is not going to happen. My goal is to see to it that he has as full a life as is possible.

We still travel as much as we can.  No, it’s not the golf outings and adventures we had planned to take together.  But, we are able to see our grandchildren regularly.

Meanwhile, I have begun to relax and accept the way that things are.  This has been a journey of nine years. and I consider myself very lucky that God has enough faith in me to take care of one of his children.  I do not want to let Him down. And because I am more afraid of the next chapter of my life, I am grateful for every day I get to spend taking care of my husband.

* * * * * * *

I am grateful to Sally for opening up her heart and history for this series.  If you or someone you know would like to guest blog about a caregiving experience, send me an email at krexploringwellness at gmail dot com.

9 Responses to “The Caregiver Series : What the Caregiver Needs”

  1. on 03 Dec 2012 at 9:14 amcarmen

    What a wonderful story from the perspective of the caregiver. I admire your willingness to BE. Present and active in your life in the moment.

  2. on 03 Dec 2012 at 10:32 amKathy

    Thank you for opening up and sharing your story. It’s very touching and your honesty and positive attitude are refreshing. How wonderful that you have found a new community that supports your “new normal” life. Your story is a great reminder to be thankful for what we have now and that life can change in an instant. You also are a wonderful example of love and loyalty!

  3. on 03 Dec 2012 at 10:45 amJulie Hildebrand

    Another wonderfully inspiring post by Sally. Thank you so much for sharing your story!
    Julie

  4. on 04 Dec 2012 at 12:13 amMary Fisher

    Another wonderful post! They have all have been so heart driven. I’m so lucky to have these two as my friends. Love them both!!
    mary

  5. on 04 Dec 2012 at 10:52 amRyne

    Absolutley fanastic Sally, I cannot imagine how hard this must be to write. Away from my family, there is no person in the world who has had a more significant impact on my life. The best memories I have as a kid in some way involve Doc. And it’s not just me. He changed the lives of hundreds, if not thousands of people.

    We all terribly miss the “old” version of Doc but it is great to hear that you are starting to enjoy the new hand you were dealt. He still puts a smile on all of our faces each time we see him.

  6. on 05 Dec 2012 at 9:26 amConnie

    Wow…..what a woman.

  7. on 07 Dec 2012 at 4:15 pmDi

    Sally has always been such an inspiration in my life since I was a little girl. I have sat here reading all of the caregiver series posts and just cried. I finally have such a better understanding of the “why” of so many of my questions. Reading this last post about the needs for you, Sal, I accept the changes you have had to make and understand them now. Yes there are many people that really really miss you here but like Ryne said we really miss the old “Doc” and you. You are a super woman and I can only hope that if I am put in a situation like you have been in the past 10 years that I can make you proud by realizing what is most important in life. I love y’all so much and feel like I am babbling (but what’s new) but just felt led to share how I love y’all. Give Doc a kiss on the head from Di.

  8. on 10 Dec 2012 at 10:18 pmKevin Patterson

    I worked with Keith & Sally’s son Doug at Spartan Chemical. Our mutual love of golf, followed by visits to Doug & Monica’s home in Jonesborough as I travelled to a Myrtle Beach golf trip yearly in the spring, gave occasion to meet Doug’s wonderful parents. This began about 2004; I was able to golf with Doug & Keith, and was so impressed with Keith’s considerable golf abilities but more so with his demeanor and intellect. Sally was always so welcoming & did not make me feel like I was intruding (this was always around Easter weekend so they would be visiting Doug & Monica)… bottom line: just great people. I hate that my buddy Doug has been robbed of the things I’m sure he & Keith planned to do together… I hate the same is true for Sally, and Doug’s sisters… and I realize all my “hate” at this chain of events will not… and can not… change things for them. Sally, your blogs have brought both a tear to my eye & an even heightened respect for you and how you continue to deal & adapt to an ever-changing set of circumstances. Please give Keith a hug for me… and one for yourself. So much of you both are present in your son Doug… and he is one quality individual. God bless, KP (Kathy sends her love, as well)

  9. on 11 Dec 2012 at 12:21 amEmily Clouser

    Thank you for this, I really enjoyed reading about your journey. You are an amazing woman!!!

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