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Do I really HAVE to learn new tricks?

Over the last several weeks, we’ve been watching the progress of an elderly husband as he learns to cope with a new role – caregiver for his injured wife.  Today we check in with him one last time.  Just in case you missed any the first time, here’s where you find the previous entries about our “grumpy old dog”:

Here’s how this reluctant new caregiver summarizes the adjustment process, the new skills he’s acquired, and the lessons he’s learned: 

“It’s now three weeks since my wife’s surgery, and I’m delighted to report that she’s getting better rapidly now!  I’m thrilled with her recovery not only for her sake, but because I don’t know how long I would have been able to keep up the pace. As demands slow down somewhat, I find that I am able to take a little joy in my new-found capabilities.  I don’t mind cooking and cleaning as much as I thought.    I’m thinking maybe I’ll share the cooking chores with my wife when she gets better.  I have NEVER cooked, and it’s really not quite has difficult as I have thought. Besides, when I cook, I get to prepare the menu, which is an advantage I hadn’t previously considered! 

In addition, this injury and recovery period have helped my wife and I see each other in a new and more favorable light.  I think we appreciate each other more than we used to, and caring for her has helped me give her the care and tenderness I had forgotten to give as the years went by.   

I’m finding it’s good to get off my aging duff and carry my weight – something I didn’t think I was capable of doing any more. I was seriously afraid that I would not be able to care for my wife during her incapacity.  It’s good to find out I can. 

I realize that I could not have made this transition without a team of support behind me.  I have come to really appreciate several “resources” during this process:

  • My insurance company benefits department for informing me of the help available;
  • The local Senior Center for providing help I could not get through my insurance.  They were very understanding of our needs as an elderly couple;
  • My wife.  She has been very brave and has not complained (much) about either her pain or my obvious inadequacies as a caregiver.  Her patience and praise for my efforts have both helped me get things done when I might otherwise have given up; and
  • My therapist.  I was in counseling before the injury (due to my own health issues), and my counselor was absolutely invaluable in helping me to play the cards I was dealt with some measure of compassion for my wife.  Everybody needs a little help now and again, if only to listen and provide healthy advice. ” 

As with all transitions, this one had its rough moments (Caregiver Fatigue) and it’s “growing edge” (learning to use a crockpot and starting a meditation practice).  With lots of support and help from various agencies, professionals, and family members, this new caregiver mastered the skills necessary to take care of his loved one and rediscovered strengths in himself he thought he had lost. 

If you find yourself facing a similar transition, please GET HELP.  Find your own support team.  Contact local agencies to see what services they can offer.  Talk to your doctors, insurance providers, and family members.  And, consider counseling.  It is important to take care of YOURSELF so that you can take care of your loved ones.  Feel free to contact me if I can be of any assistance. 

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