Lost in Caregiver Twilight Zone

Written on 12/21/2009

I’m caring for my 92-year-old grandfather following three surgeries in seven days. I’m so tired it’s numbing, it’s impossible to think about doing it again tomorrow.  My grandfather is a man of habits driven by the time of day, maybe from his military background. One morning he was upset when the hospital had not brought his coffee and could not see he was the problem. We’re in a hospital not the Hilton. At home it was far worse. It does not matter that I have changed the sheets again this morning, changed his soiled underpants more than once and got him dressed for the day. If the coffee is not ready when he expects or I don’t have the newspaper yet, I hear about it. My grandparents raised me and I love my grandfather dearly but it’s hard to bite my tongue. I want to ask doesn’t he realize or care that I’ve been moving since 5:00 a.m. to take care of him.

At 92 he lives at home alone, still drives (very limited), buys groceries and goes to the local Senior Center several times a week to play dominos. He amazes me with each year. He is the healthiest dying person I know and in his mind he is much younger and more capable. This makes it impossible for him to understand recovery will take several more weeks at least. I catch him doing things he shouldn’t and I get the standard “I can do it”.  He also acts like a child when he doesn’t want to do something, most of the time it’s taking his medicine or getting up to move around.

I push him gently but firmly to get up and move around. Laying in bed or sleeping in the chair all day will not improve his strength. Like all of us, he does not like being told what to do. You learn what you’re made of in stressful times. Our mind and bodies can withstand so much to help someone we love. All I know is tomorrow is a new day.

I grew up in this house and it feels strange to stay in my old bedroom at 46. The house built in 1950, is in the hood, has no dishwasher, Internet or privacy. I am going crazy without my Internet escape. I’m in the twilight zone, washing dishes by hand three times a day and the room is the same since leaving home in 1981. Tomorrow is a new day.

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