Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Caregiving from a Caregiver's Perspective - Part Two a

By Diane Forrest, RN

Giving Care 24/7

My last article on care giving was about listening. 

Who listens to the caregiver? 

Where do they go for support, advice, to vent? 

There are many different types of caregivers.  Probably the first introduction you receive in care giving is connected with a grandparent.  You see your parent take care of their aging parents, either by prolong visits, hospital stays with them, or even having them move in with you.  As you get older, you begin your family.  You begin to care for your spouse.  You take care of them in times of sickness, and wellness.  Cooking, cleaning, even the occasional back or foot rub are all parts of giving care. 

As your family expands, and a baby arrives, the role of the caregiver is more advanced, complicated.  You become responsible for another human life.  In the beginning taking care of a child is a demanding 24/7 activity.  You have to feed, clean, nurture a newborn.  However, taking care of a newborn is not a continuous event.  The newborn grows and becomes independent, turns into a teenager and drives you crazy.  Even though you continue to feed, clean and nurture them until they go to college, and beyond.  They are able to function independently. 

The next form of care giving is usually your parent.  This could be limited, or complicated depending on their health issues.  Then there is the area that I am familiar with, the care of a spouse. 

I married my husband 16 years ago.  The first few months were wonderful; however 5 months after we married he was injured in a work related incident which ruptured several discs in his spine which eventually lead to paralysis from his chest down.  He was no longer able to work, and was home alone while I worked.  Since I worked nights, it was not a problem, however when my work schedule changed to days, it was becoming unsafe to leave him.  He would have falls, injure his legs, and get burns from hot liquid spills.  My husband was 37 years old at the time and very independent. 

So, I had a decision to make.  I could continue working, or stay home and take care of my husband.  Even though it meant the loss of my income, the choice was simple.  We were aware that his condition would deteriorate; surgery was not an option his injury was so severe that it couldn't be repaired.  As nurse, I knew how to care of his medical needs, and as a wife I wanted to take care of him.  He was a very private person, and didn't want strangers seeing him in the buff.  The thought made him anxious, so I had no problem alleviating his fears and providing all of his care.  Thus began my 24/7 life of care giving.   In the beginning it was not difficult.  He was able to move about in his wheelchair, and able to drive his van using hand controls. 

Living and a small tourist town, there were not many handicap accessible places we could go, but we made the best of it.  The main thing we missed was contact with the outside world.  Neither of us grew up in this town, so the friends we had were either work related, or church related.  Because of the legal matters surrounding his injury, his co-workers were not allowed to talk to him any more, and I had lost contact with fellow co-workers due to hospital lay-offs and downsizing.   We were no longer able to go to church because it was also inaccessible.  Thus began our life of isolation.


  1. I understand this all too well. Although Jim was never confined to a wheel chair, everything fell on my shoulders. I had always handled the bookkeeping. Now I also had to handle upkeep on our home, lawn care, car maintenance, etc. This became more difficult as I spent the last few months with him mostly in the hospital, 24/7 in a reliner only going home long enough to take care of necessities.

  2. That is where it really gets to be a strain, when you have to be at the hospital and at home too! We have a dog, that had to be fed, bills to be paid, then going back to the hospital getting no rest at all, because the nurses and other hospital staff come in at all hours of the day and night. When you have nobody to help it gets really hard. Thanks for your comments!