There are times in your life when you’re so sick that you don’t care. About anything. You stay in bed and sleep so much that you don’t even know what day it is. You can’t be a caregiver when this happens. You’re just trying to take care of yourself and get over whatever virus, flu or bug hit you.
So what do you do when the healthiest person in the house is the one who has dementia?
Two weeks ago, a stomach bug bit me so badly that I couldn’t get out of bed to check on Dad. The only problem was, Mom was also sick with a respiratory infection. I tried to fill in when she couldn’t; she tried to fill in when I couldn’t. But by Friday we both felt like we’d been run over by a Mack truck. And that’s when it happened.
Friday night I noticed a couple of voice mail messages from our neighbor and soon learned that what every caregiver fears happened to Dad. That afternoon he wandered out of the house and started walking down the street while Mom and I were obliviously asleep.
We don’t know how long he was outside. We don’t know if he fell. We do know that thankfully our neighbors saw him and brought him back home. It was clear to me that God had His hand on my Father and put our neighbors in his path to bring him to safety. But what if this happened again?
We desperately needed someone to come over the next day to watch Dad during the afternoon when he has the itch to wander. So I called the one person I knew would say yes. I called the Director of Grace Arbor, the adult day center Dad has been a member of for more than ten years.
Lisa didn’t even hesitate. “Absolutely,” she said. “I’ll be there.”
Because of COVID-19, everyone has been keeping a safe distance, including Grace Arbor volunteers. When they came over a few weeks ago to sing to my Dad, they stayed in the front yard with masks on while he sat on the front porch. I’ve been so focused on limiting exposure to COVID for my parents that I assumed people wouldn’t be able to come inside the house to help. But this was an emergency.
As soon as Lisa said yes, I reached out to other friends to request their help throughout the week. Since then, we’ve had a wonderful influx of Grace Arbor volunteers and church friends to care for Dad while I recover, rest and try to take care of Mom.
It isn’t over.
I have recovered but Mom has not. Last night she was admitted to the hospital and doctors are running tests to find out why she can’t shake this respiratory infection and why her blood pressure is so high.
I don’t know what’s going to happen. I just know that God is good and has protected, provided and poured out His love on us. One friend brought groceries and homemade chicken ratatouille, another friend brought supplies for Dad, another friend picked up an order at Home Depot for us, one friend took Mom to the doctor when I was too sick to drive, more friends have watched Dad for us and countless people have been praying for us during this ordeal. Every single one of them is a Godsend.
I’m always learning as a caregiver. You need a plan for when the caregivers are sick and can’t even take care of themselves.
We are so blessed to have everyone’s help and we know we could not do this without them. So if you’re one of those friends I mentioned, thank you from the bottom of our hearts!