Caregiver

Someone who provides care and assistance to someone else

Asking for Help

Communication is a tricky process. When I make a statement, not only am I projecting what I think I intend to say, but I am also creating in my mind an image of how I think you will receive my message. I tell myself a story about our conversation before we ever have it. That means that by the time the interaction occurs, I already “know” the outcome of the conversation in my gut before I speak the first word. I may be so focused on what I “know” you’re going to do based on the script I’ve written in my mind, that if you deviate from your “lines,” I’m likely to miss what you say in real time. Continue reading at: https://multiplesclerosis.net/caregiver/asking-help/

End of Life Decisions

Grief and dispair over loss
I try to stay optimistic about the future, but occasionally an event occurs that reminds me of how tenuous life can be. One of those events happened recently with the passing of a fellow caregiver’s spouse.

Similar health histories

About eight years ago, I meet the caregiver while my husband, Lynn, was a patient in Intensive Care (ICU). Her husband and Lynn shared similar histories (both had Primary Progressive MS – PPMS), though her husband was much younger. During the month, Lynn was a patient in the ICU, the caregiver and I had many conversations about the challenges of being a spouse/caregiver. It felt so good to be able to talk openly to someone else about how I felt about my new role, especially about my fears related to Lynn being in ICU. Those discussions lead me to start writing a blog about the struggles of being a caregiver with the hope of connecting with other caregivers in similar situations. Continue reading at:  https://multiplesclerosis.net/caregiver/end-life-planning/

Prepare to Become a Caregiver

Prepare to become a caregiver. In 2015, research conducted by the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) found that 43.5 million adults in the United States (approximately 29% of the adult population) had provided unpaid care to either a child or adult during that year. With the growing need for in-home medical interventions and the limited resources available, experts predict that the vast majority of adults will at some point during their adult lives need to perform the role of caregiver to someone they know. Continue Reading at https://multiplesclerosis.net/caregiver/tips-prepare/

Right to Decide

I often feel like I have multiple personalities, and knowing which one I should be using can be difficult. Sometimes I know who I want to be, but it’s not always the one I think I should be. There are even times I know who I am and who I should be, but I don’t want to be either of them.

I act as my husband’s medical decision maker

Many times, I’m expected to act “in the place of” my husband. I’m his medical decision maker and his power of attorney.

Continue reading at https://multiplesclerosis.net/caregiver/decision-making-rights/

Hope or Regret: The 4-Wheel Drive Powerchair Debate

Powerchair
I know you’ve heard the phrase, “One person’s junk is another one’s treasure.” I have a new one for you: “One person’s hope is another one’s regret.”

Four-wheel drive powerchair

We have a $12,000 monstrosity my husband calls his four-wheel drive powerchair. We bought this large paperweight in 2009 but never used it because it came programmed incorrectly. Advertised as able to climb stairs, speed through sand, and out-maneuver muddy driveways without a hitch, the Predator is a basic, metal framed chair with no padding or seat, equipped with headlights, turn signals, a horn, and the ability to raise or lower its height. It’s very ugly. However, at the time, similar models were not available for the stated price in America, and Lynn desperately wanted a way to be able to go fishing. Continue reading at: https://multiplesclerosis.net/caregiver/hope-regret-powerchair/

Retirement to the Rescue

I have always had a tough time saying no to anyone. Saying no fills me with guilt. I like to solve problems and make others feel better. I, therefore, tend to suffer from a lot of blame if I can’t solve the issues presented for a resolution quickly or at all. I feel like a failure creating feelings of depression and anger.


On the other hand, pushing to answer complex problems can result in positive consequences, too. To avoid feelings of guilt, I struggle to try harder to succeed in reaching my goal of meeting the person’s needs, and it helps me to be more creative. However, often along with the added energy and motivation comes additional stress and anxiety.


Continue reading at https://multiplesclerosis.net/caregiver/retirement/

Sorry I Haven’t Been Able to Write Lately

I guess most of you who have read my column in the past think I’ve stopped writing.  I have to admit that I’ve considered whether I should do that because my time to do anything at all these days is so limited but the publishers of this site are so kind and they have asked me to share my stories whenever I get the opportunity so I’ll keep doing so for as long as I can.

 Continue reading at

 https://multiplesclerosis.net/caregiver/caregiver-perspective-sorry-havent-been-able-wright-lately/

What Goes In Must Come Out

One of the joys of having a progressive disease is that everything changes. Just as you adjust to one change, something happens and the “fix” you had in place is no longer working. As Lynn’s caregiver, I have not found his physician to be particularly helpful in warning me about things to come. If I ask about an issue, he will give me a prescription or a referral but he’s not much on home remedies or being proactive on warning on what I might encounter. Therefore, most solutions I come up with are things I stumble across and come up with myself and are not recommendations by doctors so you might want to talk to your doctor before you decide to do anything I mention here.


Now, my take on waste management…

Continue reading at

 https://multiplesclerosis.net/caregiver/what-goes-in-must-come-out/

Realities of Life

For the most part, our home life is fairly stable meaning we have the same things happening day in and day out. We have a routine – I get Lynn up for the morning and help him with his exercise, take him to the bathroom for his bowel regimen, put him back to bed and do a partial bath including skincare, and he takes a nap to recover from that activity. It takes about three hours to do all that. None of it is complex (except sometimes the skincare) but most of it is very physically demanding and Lynn can do nothing to help with it except cooperate with what I do to him. Once this morning routine is completed, the rest of the day is pretty basic attendant type care (assist with eating, getting things to drink, changing position, helping him write, etc.).

At night, the work increases again by preparing meals, etc., for the next day, bath time, nighttime rituals, etc. Including my own personal care and feeding, it takes about five hours to get it all done and get us to bed. Again, the work is not complex care; just physical and time-consuming. None of this is complicated but all of it is necessary to maintain quality of life that is not miserable every minute of every day till you die so it’s very important stuff. It is also stuff that if you cannot do on your own, is very, very expensive to have someone else do for you unless you are fortunate enough to have family or friends to help you out.


Continue reading at

 https://multiplesclerosis.net/caregiver/realities-of-life/

Did You Miss Me?

Some of you have noticed that I have not been writing for a couple of months because you have sent me messages asking if I was okay. Thank you very much for checking on me. It’s humbling to know there are people that I don’t even know who care about me and lift me up in their prayers. Thank you.

It’s been about two months since I last wrote. During that time, I have been in the emergency department three times for abdominal migraine attacks that I could not control at home. I started having attacks of severe abdominal pain in February. Initially, the ED staff thought it was appendicitis, but that was ruled out on CT. The next time it occurred in March, they thought maybe I had an intestinal infection because they could see two areas of thickening on the CT and my white blood cells were elevated. I was given a course of antibiotics and an anti-fungal (to be on the safe side) and survived the additional trauma of a two-week encounter with their side effects. I was feeling pretty good about things when in May it happened again, and the ED doctors said they didn’t have a clue what was going on; I should see a gastroenterologist.
It took a while to get a specialist appointment, but I saw someone around the first of June. Five minutes into my visit, he said, “You have abdominal migraines.” What in the world is that? I thought to myself. He went on to explain that they are similar to headache migraines in that they have the same mechanism of action.

  • There is usually an aura (Yep, I had that),
  • they come on and get progressively worse and
  • then go away with or without treatment (that seemed to be true), and
  • between episodes, everything was perfectly normal (Yep, that was true, too).

Abdominal migraines usually affect children but can affect adults who have chronic migraines as well (that was me). Great, I now had a diagnosis and a series of medications to try when I had an attack. What I have found so far though is that the medicines are either not strong enough or I’m waiting too long to take them. As with every new diagnosis, there is always a learning curve required before you find the right treatment plan.

Continue reading at

 https://multiplesclerosis.net/caregiver/did-you-miss-me/

Something New to Deal With

Every time Lynn starts acting differently for several days in a row, I start to wonder if it means there’s some new problem we have to face. MS can affect so many different body parts and functions that I just never know if a new problem is MS or something else.


For instance, Lynn has been sleeping a lot. He talked to his dietitian who thought he needed more protein in his diet; so, we added two protein shakes a day. He loves them and he is putting on a little more weight (he lost a lot dieting and not tracking how much he was losing) which is probably a good thing, but he still sleeps much more than he used to sleep. Now, I know MS causes fatigue and I know that our sleeping habits are poor because he wakes so often to empty his bladder but is this just the natural order of MS; lots of fatigue leading to the need for more sleep? Should he sleep this much if he’s tired or does sleeping a lot cause him to feel tired? Could be either. Should I be concerned or just let it go as part of the normal course of MS?


Continue reading at https://multiplesclerosis.net/caregiver/something-new-to-deal-with/

I’m No Angel

I admit my life is very busy and very difficult. I also admit I manage it pretty well, but just because I have to do some pretty difficult tasks day after day and I keep doing them, doesn’t make me an angel. I realize that most people who are not full-time caregivers are amazed at what I do and how I manage but that just means I know stuff and I have abilities and that God blessed me with a servant’s heart that allows me to meet these challenges without quitting. It does not make me an angel.


I bet if you’re a caregiver, you’ve been called an angel a time or two, also. It’s a compliment that is intended to reward you for all your hard work, and I admit, it sounds nice, but when someone tells me I’m an angel, I’m embarrassed and I feel guilty because I’m far from being an angel.


continue reading at

https://multiplesclerosis.net/caregiver/im-no-angel/

Feeling Alone or Maybe Just Left Out

I always have guilt feelings when I write about any negative emotions I feel in being a caregiver but the fact is, I have them and I expect most other caregivers have them as well. It doesn’t mean we don’t love the person we care for but it means that providing care is not always a piece of cake. If you’re a parent, it’s similar to loving your kids but being angry at them for scratching the car and sometimes seriously thinking of selling them to the lowest bidder. You would NEVER actually do it and would miss them beyond words if they were not around but the fantasy…well, sometimes the fantasy helps to get past the moment.


Feeling lonely is like that. I’m actually rarely alone which is one of the reasons why I feel lonely. I am responsible for Lynn 24/7/365; just like a parent of a small child. Whereas children grow up and leave home, adults with disabilities do not unless they become too much for the caregiver to handle (and that’s not something any of us want to have happen). So, you would think to have Lynn with me all the time for companionship, I wouldn’t be lonely but I am at times.


Continue reading at

 https://multiplesclerosis.net/caregiver/caregiver-perspective-feeling-alone-or-maybe-just-left-out/

Lack of Sleep. The Root of All Evil?

There are a lot of responsibilities and consequences in being a caregiver that I don’t like; things I would prefer not to do or which are difficult to manage, but the biggest challenge I have is lack of sleep. I think that if I had time to sleep more, my life would be a lot different.


Typically, I get five hours of sleep a night. If I were to have an opportunity to sleep through the night without interference, I would probably naturally wake up after nine hours. Nine hours is more like the “sleeping in on Saturday morning” days I remember back before children and back before Lynn became disabled. When I was going into work in the days before Lynn became immobile, I usually got eight hours and certainly at least seven of sleep a night unless someone was sick or we had been up for some special occasion. I remember those days fondly. I felt good. I had energy. I felt rested and refreshed when I awoke each morning ready to take on the day.

I miss those days.

Continue reading at

 https://multiplesclerosis.net/caregiver/caregiver-perspective-lack-of-sleep-the-root-of-all-evil/

Confessions of a Stressed-Out Caregiver

Often when I meet someone who has just become a caregiver, they ask me how I do it; “How do you handle the daily stress of working and caregiving full time while still managing a home?” I always reply, “I try to take it one day at a time and just deal with what’s happening that day.” Pearls of wisdom, right? Well, I’m here to confess, I apparently don’t deal with stress very well so I’m not sure that I should be giving anyone any advice on this subject. I’ve been caring for Lynn full time since 2009 and I can tell you, it’s starting to take its toll. Here’s my confession.


I do not take things one day at a time. I try to but I’m not very good at it.


continue reading at

https://multiplesclerosis.net/caregiver/confessions-of-a-stressed-out-caregiver/

Blessings from Pain

I’m sure you have heard others reference the saying “turn lemons into lemonade.” It implies taking something bad and turning it into something good. Our pastor challenged us to think along those lines but with a different twist. When something has you down or something bad/inconvenient happens, try thinking about why that’s a good thing. I have to admit I have difficulty doing that much of the time but each day I try to think of at least one thing good about that day, be thankful for it and share it on my Facebook page. It helps me to, at least once a day, think of something positive. I’ve been pretty negative lately because Lynn and I have not been feeling well and I’ve spent three weekends in the last two months in the emergency department without any answers regarding what is causing me to have abdominal pain. I know it’s nothing serious but I don’t know what it is and I’m getting tired of it. Anyway, I’m also tired of being so negative. Therefore, my post today is my attempt to take this challenging period in our lives and make it into something positive. Here goes….

I am blessed that I have been in the hospital three separate times for three overnight stays because it has allowed my family and me now to have a trial run on what we would do if I was sick for longer than overnight.


continue reading at

https://multiplesclerosis.net/caregiver/blessings-from-pain/

Give Me a Hand

Someone asked me recently if I had ever written about how we adapted to Lynn’s loss of function in his hands. I haven’t, but it’s a topic that might be helpful to some, so here goes.


Lynn’s loss of the use of his hands gradually progressed over time. I’m guessing the decline occurred over maybe 3-4 years with generalized weakness initially and now no strength to speak on either side.

 

He has almost no function in his left hand/arm and minimal in his right hand/arm. I think he started noticing a decrease in responsiveness about the time of his 2006 diagnosis. I say that because I came in one day to see him comparing the speed at which his fingers would move between the two hands.

 

It was that sight that made me realize that his weakness was not just in his legs. I demanded that he see a doctor because no longer could he insist it was just his sciatic nerve. As I told him, sciatic nerves do NOT affect the shoulder, arm, or hand movement, so it was more likely to be a problem in his brain or upper spinal cord. He agreed, and so came his first MRI and the diagnosis of MS.

 

Continue reading at https://multiplesclerosis.net/caregiver/give-me-a-hand/

What Resources are Available if I’m Not Around Anymore?

About this time last week, I was experiencing discomfort in my abdomen. As the hours progressed, the pain got worse until eventually it was so intense that I was vomiting. Unable to sit up, I was lying on the floor moaning in pain with no access to help within reach. Fortunately, Lynn heard my moaning and used his emergency response button to call for help. The dispatcher was able to summons the rescue squad and contact my daughter to come to our house to stay with Lynn until his son could arrive to take over (she has a special needs child she had to get home to before her husband left for work).
As I lay on the floor in agony, what was going through my head? I need to find a break between vomiting to put a Foley catheter in Lynn or his bladder will become too distended. I waited for my next break after vomiting and while doubled over, collected catheter supplies and inserted it before I was unable to remain upright again. At that point, I was able to focus on me.
Continue reading at: https://multiplesclerosis.net/caregiver/what-resources-are-available-if-im-not-around-anymore/

Helpful Resources for Supplies, Equipment or Information

With Relapsing-Remitting MS (RRMS), Lynn would have an exacerbation that could last days or weeks, but he would return to “normal” at some point, and nothing much changed. With Secondary Progressive MS (SPMS), he stopped getting better. He happened to be in a clinical trial at the time he transitioned to SPMS, so he was seeing his doctor every three months and getting the full-court press evaluation. We started noticing that his scores were getting worse over time without any evidence of having had an exacerbation. He was not walking as far, and his strength was less. Response times to questions got worse, and overall, he seemed to feel worse most of the time. That’s when his doctor decided his MS had changed from RRMS to SPMS, and we realized we needed to look into making changes in our lives.


We were not fortunate enough to have a comprehensive approach by his doctor to managing his MS. His doctor is a neurologist, and he does not offer guidance on his care or alternate treatment measures; just on disease treatment. However, when I would bring something up, he would make referrals to other resources. His physical medicine/rehabilitation doctor has probably been the most helpful. He arranged for Lynn to be measured for a power chair and he’s talked to him more about dealing with his other losses and some measures worth considering in either preventing further decline or improving overall health.


Continue reading at

 https://multiplesclerosis.net/caregiver/helpful-resources/

Waiting for the Next Shoe to Drop

Caregiver feelings of depression, being overwhelmed and lonliness

I was talking to a fellow caregiver this week about an event that occurred to him and he made the comment, “Yeah, I’m just waiting for the next shoe to drop.” That comment really struck home. I confess; I’m like that most of the time. Lynn, my husband and the person I provide care to, accuses me of being pessimistic but honestly, if I don’t expect the worst, then I won’t be prepared if it occurs. It’s a matter of self-preservation from my perspective. I do admit though that I can take it too far.
Scenario:
Lynn has gotten a double dose of baclofen in his pump to reduce the number of spasms. Baclofen is a muscle relaxer. Not only does it relax muscles, it makes him sleepy. Therefore, he sleeps h-o-u-r-s at a time, wakes up to eat, and then goes to sleep again.
My, “what if,” talk in my head goes like this…
He sure is sleeping a lot. Shouldn’t he have adjusted to the dose by now? It’s been a month. Maybe it’s something more. Just because he has more baclofen on board doesn’t mean that’s what is causing his sleepiness. I think I should check to make sure he does not have a urinary tract infection that is not showing up yet. I wonder if his CO2 level is too high? With his sleep apnea, he might be retaining carbon dioxide which would make him sleepy. I’ll have to make sure he’s oriented when he wakes up. What if it’s something new?And on and on and on….
Continue reading at https://multiplesclerosis.net/caregiver/waiting-for-the-next-shoe-to-drop/

It’s Snowing

It’s been the talk for days. “Have you heard? We might get a foot of snow.” The prediction was for it to start before sunrise on Friday, then changed to 10 a.m., and then to 1 p.m. Two days before the snow was predicted, lines at the grocery store were wrapped around and down aisles. All were preparing for the great storm to come.
For those of you who live in the north, a foot of snow is, “Much to do about nothing,” I’m sure, but for those of us in Central/Eastern Virginia, we rarely get deep snows so for us it’s truly a big event. There’s a mixture of excitement but then also dread for the days after. Our road and power crews do an awesome job and truly do their best to keep everything moving but since snow storms happen so rarely, they only have so much available to them. With this storm in particular, it was predicted to hit all of Virginia so pulling from one area to another is not really a possibility. Therefore, I had to plan for whatever might happen knowing we would be on our own for a while out here in rural Virginia.
Continue reading at https://multiplesclerosis.net/caregiver/its-snowing/

I Can’t Just Get Sick

I had a scare this week thinking that I was about to experience the joy of food poisoning. As I was giving Lynn his bath, I started feeling really nauseous. Then my stomach starting burning and feeling crampy and I started sweating—all the tell-tale signs of food poisoning when you’ve recently spent hours sampling leftover food as you clean up from the day’s festivities. As it turned out, it did not develop into the dreaded torture of food poisoning and probably was a reaction to eating too many rich food products the same day on top of eating them several days previously. However, the experience brings into focus that as a caregiver, I can’t just get sick. As I’m preparing to be sick, I have to prepare Lynn for me to be sick. Let me tell you; that just does not seem fair….
Continue reading at https://multiplesclerosis.net/caregiver/i-cant-just-get-sick/

We Survived Christmas, But Just Barely

Christmas is now officially over and it’s with mixed emotions that I say goodbye to it for another year.


I love the Christmas holidays. I decorate everything in sight. Since we don’t go out very much, we miss most of the festive sights so I bring it to us instead. I can’t outline the house in lights but I put up trees sparkling with white lights all along the front and in front of them I have bunches of red and white poinsettias grouped every two feet with stick trees lite in white behind them. Lots of garland can be seen draped on porch rails with white lights running throughout. Electronic deer and a snow family grouped among trees with the Holy Nativity established in the place of honor at the entrance to our driveway greet visitors upon their arrival.

Yes, my house could be on the tacky light tour if we had one in our neighborhood but it is how I enjoy the sights of Christmas being limited in my time away from home.


Continue reading at https://multiplesclerosis.net/caregiver/we-survived-christmas-but-just-barely/

How Can I Help?

I get a lot of offers to help; some sincere and others just being polite. What I have found is that people want to help but they don’t know how and realistically, many have their own problems and challenges so they can’t help in a way that involves time or money.  While I really could use the help, I don’t want to put anyone out so I usually don’t ask BUT, if you ask me if you can do something for us, I may very well say, “yes.” Here are some ways you can help.


Inexpensive and limited time commitment:
continue reading at: https://multiplesclerosis.net/caregiver/caregiver-perspective-can-help/