It was a Monday and Joan was rattled.
She’d called me early in the morning and left a message that described so fully and completely what often happens in the day-to-day of caring for someone with dementia.
“Maria, it’s Joan…” she said.
“An equipment delivery for Joe arrived yesterday morning for something that no one told me had been ordered. Then a nurse came to take his blood. It sure would have been nice if I’d know she was coming – I would have at least brushed my teeth!
I had just finished the breakfast dishes and was starting to fix Joe a sandwich when the pharmacy called to say that they were sending over a worker to pick up some medication that they gave me by accident yesterday.
Two people from the home care agency are coming over today to have me sign something, the case manager from the city is coming too to sign Joe up for Meals-on-Wheels and my next-door neighbor keeps popping in to see how I’m doing.
You know what I want to tell her?
I want to tell her that I’m not doing well at all!
I want to tell her that my quiet, private life has been taken over by Joe and this dementia and that so many damn people are coming in and out of my home all the time that I’m beginning to feel like I’m running a 7-Eleven! (She paused here to take a deep breath.)
I’m deep breathing like you tell me to, but this is crazy! Okay. Call me if you can.”
And there it was: Transition #3.
When your loved one is first diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia and you become the primary caregiver, no one tells you that there will be days like this or that the strength and patience it will take to endure them will be tremendous.
That morning I returned Joan’s call.
“So yesterday was one for the records and today is shaping up to be the same, huh?”
“You got that right,” she said.
“What can I do?” I asked.
“You can tell me that I’m doing alright. That other people have the same things happen and that I’m not losing my mind when I start to feel so frazzled.”
I have to admit that what she said took me by surprise.
The woman with the tough exterior, the one who was reluctant to ask for help up until recently because she didn’t trust it, was acknowledging her own feelings and asking me to acknowledge them too. It was a huge step and I felt honored that she’d called.
“You are doing more than alright,” I told her in a sturdy voice. There’s no road map here! You are listening to yourself and to what you need. You’re enlisting help at night so you can sleep, you’re getting Meals-on-Wheels so you can save time on meal preparation. These are the things that are in your control and the best you can do is just what you’re doing. Most importantly, you’re blowing the whistle when you need more support.”
Joan was quiet, so I continued…
“In the beginning, sometimes “help” doesn’talways feel this way, but it will. That I can promise you.”
“I’ll have to take your word for it right now…” she said as the doorbell rang.
“Well, I guess my break’s over! Can we touch base tomorrow?”
“Definitely,” I said.
And as I put the phone down I held the image of Joan in my mind for a few seconds longer. She was dressed in a red and black 7-Eleven uniform adorned with a name tag that read “Store Manager.”
And the bell over the door was ringing once more.
*All identifying information has been changed to protect the client.
Transition # 4: From Family Caregiver to Wound Care Nurse will post on August 25th. Don’t miss it! Subscribe to my feed by clicking here.