Monday April 12, 2010
a day in the life of a caregiver
2:00 am Mom woke me up with some rather loud vocalizing. She hasn't been feeling well so I rushed to check on her. I changed and repositioned her. She fell back to sleep.
2:30 am I returned to bed to try and catch some sleep.
8:30 am I arise, take a quick peek in on mom who is still sleeping, and stumble to my morning coffee ritual.
9:00 am The morning care for mom: bathe, change, clothe, replace wound bandage and feed. All the while chatting and trying to be pleasant.
9:45 am Phone call from hospital case worker regarding my aunt Theresa who has been in the hospital since Thursday. I'm very tense because this is the call I've been waiting for and hoping to hear that my aunt will qualify for and be transferring to a nursing home facility. Excellent news! Apparently my threat of dropping my aunt off at the SPCA worked. At noon Theresa will be moved to a local facility where we know much of the staff either from other family members having been there or from my friend's mom having been there for a few years.
10:10 am Arrange for an aide to stay with mom so my sister and I can tend to Theresa's transfer and get her settled in at the home.
Noon: Patricia [my sister] arrives with the aide. I give some quick instructions to the aide because the wound care doctor is expected for his weekly visit. This is an important visit because for the past couple of days I've been worried that the wound isn't doing well and I'm afraid it might be infected. Also, today is the day that a new aide is going to be provided by Visiting Nurse so my private aide will have to show her "the ropes" and settle her in. The new aide will be coming 3 times a week for a whopping 90 minutes per visit. Still, that's a help to me in terms of laundry, bathing, etc.
A side note about wound care.
I hate it. I never intended to become a nurse or doctor. I'm a man of the arts not of blood and guts. I've learned to do it and I do it well but it takes its toll on me. I have to psyche myself up to the task every time I change the bandages which is once a day sometimes more if necessary. Aside from the "gross factor" I'm always worried about hurting my mother or contaminating her or what I might find when I remove the old dressing. There is nothing pleasant about this. I'd rather do any of the other less-than-pleasant tasks that I have to do on a daily basis other than wound care. But I do it. I have no choice. Patricia won't even stay in the room for the changing of the wound.
1:00 pm: We arrive at the nursing home, which I always refer to as "Shady Pines" in homage to the Golden Girls. Perfectly appropriate because the character of Sophia could easily have been based on Theresa. Theresa has already arrived and is settled into her new room. We chat a little and then Patricia and I make the rounds of visiting the staff. We want to make sure they have instructions for Theresa's care. They're all very attentive. Theresa will be in good hands. Then we have a visit with the gal in charge of admissions. We know her. We have friends in common. She's a lovely person who fought hard to get Theresa placed with her. Many years ago when my mom had had a fall and before we had any help at home, this girl came to my house to bathe and help with my mom out of the kindness of her heart. Now we owe her an even bigger "thank you".
2:30 pm: Patricia and I finally stop at the nearby McD's for a very quick snack. Then we go shopping to get some things for Theresa to make her more comfortable and "at home". We get some new clothes, snacks, a clock radio and a stuffed kitty.
2: 40 pm: While shopping, my iPhone rings and it's the wound care doctor calling from my mother's bedside. As I had feared, he suspects infection. He prescribes medication [which means that I'll have to fetch that later] and changes her care orders. Now the wound dressing has to be changed twice a day instead of once. Great. Why make me sick only once a day when you can do it twice!
3:30 pm: We schlep back to Shady Pines to give Theresa the things we bought. She loves the kitty but of course had comments to make about everything else. Well not the snacks. She's happy to see those and digs right in. "What do I need [fill in the blank] for" she asks. This is as predictable as Christmas in December. It's a family trait. A very annoying family trait. Why say "thank you" graciously when you can grumble instead? Now I write her name in all her new clothes [so they don't get lost in laundry]. Theresa is officially installed. We're out of there.
4:15 pm: Home. Meet the new aide who is just finishing up with my mom. She seems nice enough. She says goodbye to us, scratches the dog on the head and leaves. Now I get the rundown from my private aide. "She seems OK but she keeps looking at her list and only doing what's on the list". Followed by "I had to TELL her to change the bed after she bathed Adelaide." Our private aide loves my mother. She's very protective. I love that about her. "I told the new girl that you mother knows everything that's going on so she didn't think she could get away with anything. I told her she finds a way to tell you if anyone is mean to her."
4:30 pm: Patricia takes the private duty aide home. Ah, peace and quiet!
4:35 pm: Phone rings. My mother's brother calling to see how things went.
4: 45 pm: I sit on my bed to check my voicemail, etc. for a few minutes.
5:00 pm: Phone rings. I wake up. Aunt calling to check on Theresa. I know this particular aunt will call at least 10 more times tonight. Thank God for caller ID and voicemail!
5:10 pm: Feed the dog.
5:20 pm: Rush out the door to fetch the new prescription for my mother.
5:30 pm: Stand in line behind 20 people at the drug counter, while answering calls on my mobile phone.
6:00 pm: Feed mom. Give her her medication. Change and position her. Make sure she's OK and comfortable.
6:30 pm: Rush out to an appointment I had for myself. I manage to grab a bit of dinner while I'm out.
8:00 pm: HOME. 12 calls on the home voicemail and I'm going to ignore all of them. Check on mom, she's fine. Dog is fine. I'm fine. Thankfully I managed to grab a double espresso while I was out.
8:15 pm: Notice that I had TWO aides in the house today and neither of them did my mother's laundry. So now I have to begin the laundry. Today was bed-change and bath so there is at least two loads of laundry to be done. The last thing I want to be doing is laundry. I can't stand looking at it so into the machine.
9:10 pm: Laundry in process. Dog outside for his constitutional. Time to change mom's bandage. Yuck! The doctor did a bit of surgery while he was here earlier in the day. Now I have to deal with that.
9:40 pm: Bandage done. I survived. Dog is in for the night. More phone calls unanswered. First load of laundry moved from washer to dryer. I grab a bottle of water, a glass of brandy, a couple of rice cakes and plop on my bed. Collapse is a more accurate word. It's "me" time. News on the TV. iPad on my lap. Drink on the night stand.
11:30 pm: I awake from my nap! Drinks still on night stand. iPad sleeping on the bed between me and the dog.
11:35 pm: Tend to Adelaide one last time [I hope]for the day. She's changed, had a snack and ready to sleep. I kiss her forehead [both to say "goodnight" and to check her temperature which is a habit], turn off her TV and return to my bed.
11:45: Sip beverages. Watch something stored on the DVR. Catch up on emails. Drift to dreamland.