I know just how important my husband was to me after I had my stroke and brain tumour. He was a wonderful caregiver. But we seem to fluctuate between being ill and being caregivers, making our caregivers stress greatly heightened.
I was the caregiver to my 90 year old mum who was nearly blind, suffered from dementia and was on a walker as she had a hip replacement and just refused to do exercises. She also had cancer of the uterus and bowel cancer and had lived with me since my father committed suicide 28 years ago.
While Peter was caring for me as I recovered from my brain tumour and stroke, he also had to look after mum. However, Peter suffers from a chronic back condition which keeps him bedridden for days at a time. This occurred on my return home from hospital and I really struggled trying to look after him and mum while I was so weak and suffered from severe nausea for three months (as a result of the brain surgery). But I managed – though I am sure my recovery was delayed because of the situation.
Then things changed again. Within a few months my mum went into a home and only survived for two months. That naturally saddened me greatly. Then my grandson’s mother kicked him out of his home in Queensland and he came to live with me. He had a number of issues and that also put stress on me and Peter as his caregivers. But we coped and my grandson did improve and got himself a job that he really loved.
Peter then had to have a total knee replacement. He started off with a walking stick but ended up in a wheelchair while he waited 90 days for the surgery. Even though Peter was my official caregiver, I was spending more time caring for him than he was for me! I cannot do the shopping as I cannot work out money or read the labels on product (as a consequence of my stroke) so I had to have Peter with me when shopping.
It was exhausting to manage the wheelchair and shopping, packing them both in and out of the car. I would have to rest before I could put the shopping away. But we managed. After Pete’s surgery I needed to help him with showering, dressing and going to physiotherapy as well as getting all his meals etc. It was great when four weeks later he was able to shower by himself for the first time.
Then the back problem happened again. Three days he was in bed with heavy drugs and sleeping most of the time. The pain he was in was awful (both his knee and his back). By being in bed for so long, his knee began to tighten up again. I was so worried as the physiotherapist said that he only had a small window of opportunity to get the movement back in his knee and his exercises were absolutely essential. He seemed to be nearly back to square one again.
It is tough when you are not well or suffer from disabilities and you also have to be a carer for others who are not well either. The caregivers stress that is created by such unusual circumstances makes it imperative for them to take things one day at a time and be thankful each day that they have coped with what they were able to do.
I share how I coped with my stress of my illness and being a caregiver, in my book ‘Thank God I Had a Stroke’.
Tips and Hints
When the going gets really tough ask for help. Councils can offer some assistance with home care or even personal care (though there could be a long waiting list). Make sure you use what is available. If relatives or friends can help, let them. Otherwise only do what you have to do and rest between tasks. Keep yourself as fit as you can and don’t fret – you don’t want to end up depressed.