ALL MY WAKING HOURS
2007 "Give a Caregiver a Break" RUNNER-UP: Crystal
It begins slowly. My spouse may forget a few things, but it isn't significant as long as he isn't concerned. And as the need for care becomes more evident, you don't mind because it is for someone you love. Years pass and suddenly you realize that the caregiving isn't enough. No matter how hard you try, you are still losing that dear person you care so much about. He may still respond to your urging, but the loving person, the one who took care of you, the one on whom you relied, is not aware of you any longer.
I cried when I knew my husband no longer knew me and could not respond in his sweet manner. Sixteen years have passed. I still love him dearly. But he needs me all his waking hours, and all of my waking hours. The daily pressure becomes intense.
He can't be let too close to the stove because he is unaware of a hot burner. He continually wants to leave the house, so the doors must be kept locked and guarded. One morning he is unable to get his hand around the spoon to feed himself, another day he may have a mood change and be angry and frustrated at anything you try to do for him.
We caregivers don't just care. We cope with changing needs, we adapt to the mood swings and we anticipate what might be needed next. Caregivers give their time, their love, and give up their desires, their social life and much of who they are. It can either break us down or make us stronger. I feel I have been given this job for a reason.
Sharing with others at support groups is an enormous help. Without them, I would never have been able to cope these many years. I started a support group in our church because I knew there were many who would benefit, and it has grown. Others see my husband with me and comment on how I care for him. Perhaps my role is to set an example.
I have found that daycare has given me time to take a breath. Those precious hours fly by, but at least I have a little free time from a fulltime responsibility. He is still a social person and needs to be with people. Home care would benefit him since bathing is becoming a problem. Financially, I have not been able to address that issue.
Despite the frustration, the sadness and the sleepless nights, I continue to take the oath of "in sickness and in health" very seriously. I've been on this road a long time and I expect it to become even more challenging. With God's grace, I'll be able to handle what lies ahead. God has placed before me supportive people and services that benefit my husband. I know He will sustain us through the advancing and severe stages of this devastating illness called Alzheimer's Disease.
—Crystal Thomas, Commerce Township, MI