Wednesday, February 18, 2009

CANCER JOURNAL - The Caregiver's Role

A couple of years ago my husband underwent back surgery which included spinal fusion, and rods and screws in his back in order to treat spinal stenosis and keep him on his feet. During that time I was his chief caregiver and had continued to be up until the present crisis. He needed help with anything that required bending over. He no longer has my help and is trying to help me instead.

During this time his mother has turned 90 and developed dementia. He is also trying to be a caregiver to her, though she is in a senior independent living facility which helps. She is not happy there. In addition an aunt who is 96 and has no children is in a nursing home and looks to us to be the children she doesn't have. His sister is her primary caregiver, though hubby helps when he can. His sister's health is not good though she, a widow, still has to work. He has to work as well in order to keep up health insurance benefits for me, though he qualifies for medicare.

Having lived both roles, I've come to believe that the caregiver's role is by far the most difficult and that they get neither adequate recognition nor appreciation. All attention falls on the sick person who merely has to lay around and be sick. The caregiver must attempt to keep the house going, pay the bills, assume all the duties for care of the sick. Provide he transportation and keep up with the paperwork. It is a monumental task. I watch my husband rush around trying to do it all with grace and without rancor and my heart breaks for him. I feel so bad that I can no longer help but must be the source of even greater burdens.

He is trying to learn how to do laundry and cook and clean. Soon the outside work will begin, though I hope he will hire that done. He has used the vacation that would have been a break for him to nurse me since I've been in the hospital.

It isn't fair, though when is life ever fair? Where is the retirement that he had planned for? The fishing trips that won't be taken? The travel that the world had promised? It's been a house of cards.

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