I have had numerous people ask me what being a caregiver means and what exactly does my day consist of. For those of you unfamiliar with a caregiver, I am recognized by the VA as my husband’s caregiver. I had to complete a training course to get my certification and as anything in life, am learning new things and ways to help my husband.
A day in the life of a caregiver can be very stressful, overwhelming, challenging and at the same time very rewarding. My husband suffers from PTSD, TBI and a blown out knee. (I cannot remember the medical term for the diagnosis.) We try to have a set routine which helps with the flare-ups. When my husband wakes up, which is usually around 9 or 9:30, he takes a shower. No big deal, right? Not exactly. Due to TBI, my husband has dizzy spells and losses his balance. Therefore, I am right beside the shower at ALL times in case he falls or has a dizzy spell. He relies on me for balance and will hold on to my shoulders for stability. Once he is finished with his shower, I have to help him get dressed. Again, this is due to the dizziness and balance issues. I do not always have to put his pants on but I have to be there to keep him from falling. There have been many times where he has to sit on the bed because the dizziness is so bad. Once he is dressed, he knows it is time to take medicine. No matter how many times he follows this routine, I still have to remind him to take his medicine. Again, due to TBI, he suffers from short term memory loss. Every Saturday night, I fill his weekly medicine holder. This is a way I can make sure he is taking his medicine because yet again, he does not remember taking it half the time. Keep in mind, I am doing all of this while working a full time job in the home and tending to a four year old.
Around noon, it is lunch time. My husband is not allowed to use the stove unless I am home or he calls to tell me how long something has to be in the oven. I have to remind him to eat as well as make our son lunch. His body is unable to tell him when he is hungry. I try to take my lunch break around this time so we can eat together and I can monitor what he has prepared. Between 1 and 1:30, I send a text to put our son down for nap. I am constantly reminding him to do things. If any phone calls need to be made, no matter the issue, I have to fit those phone calls in to my work schedule. I am in daily contact with his advocate helping us fight for his disability rating and social security. Phone calls can be very long and exhausting and that does not even include the numerous messages I leave relying on someone to call me back.
In the evening, we play games with our son, which is cognitive therapy for my husband. This helps him concentrate, put words together, and complete full thoughts. We make sure to get out and exercise. If any errands need to be run, we do them after I get off work. He is not able to drive alone due to lack of concentration, road rage like you would not believe (thanks to PTSD), dizziness, sensitivity to light, etc. Therefore, the driving is mainly left up to me. We try to cook dinner together, again so I can monitor is usage of the stove/oven and remind him when to check or stir the food.
He stays up late and there have been countless times I have to remind him to go to bed. It may seem like I am more of a motherly figure to him, but I am blessed with a husband that appreciates what I do for him and I really try my best not to nag or look over his shoulder all the time.
So, being a caregiver means I am not your ordinary wife. However, I am surround by many other fabulous women (and men) that have a similar story. I am a note-taker, secretary, reminder, cook, chauffeur and the list goes on. Again, this is just a glimpse of my day as a caregiver.