We’ve blogged about many of the aspects of what it’s like to become the caregiver to a spouse that has suddenly contracted a chronic illness or disability, but we never really zeroed in on exactly what your increased workload entails. If you have children, regardless of their ages, they may be able to assist or, at the very least, feel as if they are contributing.
So what are the new responsibilities a caregiver will endure should their loved one be relegated to the bed or a couch the majority of the time?
1. Janitorial Service:
If you can’t afford a maid service or cleaning crew, your duties may include many of the following:
- Sanitizing the house from possible germs and odors that are disagreeable to the patient. When a patient is on chemotherapy, even flowers can smell hideous and will need to be removed. Wet dogs are another source of concern, as are children with colds or fevers.
- Removing objects such as toys and dog bones that could cause an unsteady patient to lose their balance.
- Vacuuming, dusting, polishing and cleaning glass, fixtures, windows, etc. After all, guests may visit and if you were not the person who did the majority of the housework in the past, you may find yourself trying to figure out how a mop actually works…or that a dustpan works wonders when paired with a broom…or that a cotton shirt that is not ironed looks like you slept in it.
- Garbage detail. Need I say more?
- Patient support – if your care recipient becomes ill, guess who will be responsible for cleaning up whatever accident occurred? Along with the floor, walls, bathroom, etc., your loved one may need to be bathed and their clothing changed. Though this sounds unpleasant, it is! (and I, personally, have a very sensitive gag reflex that often went into overdrive during these events). Having said that, there was no act of love and devotion that I was able to offer to my wife that was more visible than this. I would not trade these episodes for anything in the world. It brought us incredibly close together (once I completed the task, of course).
- Laundry Service: clothes, bedding, towels, etc. will need to be washed more frequently than ever. Be prepared. You may be doing a lot of unscheduled loads of laundry. Your water bill will likely spike, as well.
Taxi & Delivery Service:
Unless you have others living in your house that can drive, it becomes your responsibility to do the following:
- Pharmacy detail: The number of medications a patient must take is sometimes shocking. Having an ample supply of pills and prescriptions sometimes requires regular and unplanned trips to the pharmacy. You and your pharmacist will become well known to each other.
- Food shopping: As is the case with many patients on medication, one’s taste buds may be negatively impacted. Favorite foods become detested and are suddenly donated to the trashcan (see: garbage detail). Replacement shopping will be frequent, and, in some cases, it will require more than one trip to the grocery store within a day. Finding palatable food is a mission not always met with success.
- Transportation to the hospital or the many doctors’ offices one must visit. Some are planned. Some are not. Either way, you need to anticipate your schedule will be interrupted.
- Restaurant carry-outs. Delivery service becomes a blessing if you can find food your care recipient can and will eat.
- If you and your care recipient were involved in carpooling the children to their activities, you are now a team of one. Thus, you become the sole provider of taxi service activities.
Entertainment & Emotional Support Committee:
This could occur day and night. Various medications can disrupt the sleep habits of many a patient. Thus, it may be 2:00 a.m., but your loved one is wide awake and overly-stimulated thanks to the addition of steroids in their system. Much as you may try to sleep, the odds are against you. Therefore, be prepared to:
- Hold late night conversations.
- Comfort your loved one when they need a good cry.
- Fix a late night snack…or two…or three…or more.
- Help them to the bathroom or anywhere else they wish to go.
- Discuss the future, review the past, and dwell on the present.
- Find puzzles, DVD’s, CD’s and head phones so you can (hopefully) return to sleep while your loved one remains awake.
This is just the tip of the iceberg as to what a caregiver may have to add to their daily day/night routine.
How does one prevent this landslide of additional activity from swallowing them completely?
The answer is…when family, friends, colleagues, social groups, etc. say to you, “Is there anything I can do? Is there anything you need?”
Answer with a resounding, “Yes!!!” Have an up-to-date list handy and tell them exactly what they can do to help.
If you respond with a “No, thank you,” then please return to the beginning of this blog and reread it once again to learn all the things you will need to undertake and add to your already busy schedule.
The choice is up to you! I’m sure you’ll choose wisely.