Sometimes a caregiver feels like an octopus trying to juggle. You have eight tentacles. Things are flying in the air ~ always more than eight so you have to get one of those things to a point that you can set it down and catch something else before it hits the ground.
Prescription is expiring. Hospice doesn’t cover that prescription because it’s unrelated to Alzheimer’s so I must reach out to Kaiser doctors. Is an office visit necessary or can you just have mercy on me and write another prescription for the same meds my Father has taken for years? Seeing more irritable and aggressive behavior. Talk with the hospice nurse to request a dosage increase. Can he take 62 mg instead of just the 50mg he’s been taking? If he takes 62 mg of this medicine, do we need to take any other meds away? If so, when? Try to track his behavior changes on the new dosage. Know I should write all this down but so tired that I forget at times. Try to stay on top of the nurse’s questions. Is he still eating well? Is he coughing while he’s eating (since people with Alzheimer’s can aspirate)? Has he lost too much weight? Are we at the point in the disease where his body isn’t absorbing the nutrients and he’s just going to keep losing weight? Do we feed him more? Has he fallen since we saw him last week? Any other different behaviors? And then there’s…
Caregivers may be great jugglers, but we’re human so things fall by the wayside. The first one is usually self-care. They tell you in support groups that you MUST take care of yourself, carve out time to do something you like doing, even if it’s just for a couple of hours so you can have an outlet. And they’re right. But there are levels of self-care. It’s one thing to spend the day on the lake with a friend and quite another to date and begin a relationship.
When I first moved in with my parents to be a caregiver, a friend from high school drove me to Home Depot in his truck so we could pick up a screen door. On the way home, he grabbed the steering wheel animatedly, looked at me and asked, “So are you dating anyone?”
Didn’t see that coming. “No.”
No hesitation. “Why not?”
Good question. “I’m just trying to focus on taking care of my Dad right now.”
I was a rookie octopus, still learning how to use the suction cups on my tentacles, trying to get the hang of what to hold onto and what to let go of. I was seeking out a support group with other octopuses but could not handle stories of loved ones in nursing homes. My Father was nowhere near that stage and it was too depressing for me to hear these weary warriors share their heart. It was just a reminder of what was to come. I didn’t have time for a relationship.
That was nearly nine years ago and I’m still caregiving. Two parents now instead of just one. I know this is just a season and I won’t be a caregiver forever. But there’s so much more I want to do, more books I want to write, places I want to travel to, dreams I want to realize.
In this frenzied fray I call my life, I’ve looked at dating as one more thing to juggle. How would I even make time for that?
Like last week when Mom felt wretched with a headache, dizziness, sinus pain, low oxygen, anxiety and congestion. I drop her off at urgent care with Dad in tow, thinking she’ll be a couple of hours. Five hours and many tests later, the doctor calls to tell me they want to run one more test the following day, but her blood pressure is so high that Mom could have a stroke if she comes home that night. The doctor recommended she stay at urgent care overnight; naturally, Mom wants to come home.
I put on my ‘parent cap’ and firmly but lovingly tell Mom she needs to stay there since I can’t handle a stroke and Alzheimer’s simultaneously. I enlist the much-needed (and graciously answered) prayers of Facebook friends so that Dad will sleep well and not even notice that Mom isn’t home. We pick up Mom and her meds the following day, but she’s been a ragdoll ever since, unable to stay up for more than a couple of hours.
So where does dating fit into this? Obviously, not every day is an urgent care day (Thank God!), but this is my life.
Part of me thinks it would be good to date again now because my current life would make a great litmus test for a guy’s character. I’m not looking for a co-caregiver. I’m looking for a guy who gets how I love my family. This is not a ‘you’re so sweet to take care of your parents like this’, pat me on the head and put a couple of happy emoji’s by my name in his phone. I want someone who will look me in the eye and say ‘you’re in a battle against a horrible disease and you’re giving everything you’ve got to preserve your Father’s dignity and I’m going to be here for you and support you every way I know how.’
I don’t have the answers. Maybe I’ll grow another tentacle so I can juggle dating. Maybe I’ll be able to get some help so I won’t have so much responsibility. Or maybe this guy I’m looking for isn’t another thing to juggle. Maybe he’s another octopus with space in his life and we’ll somehow manage to get to know one another. And maybe he’ll lend me a hand…or a tentacle.