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Sunday, December 4, 2016

Your Dying Spouse 241 - When The Caregiver Gets Sick

Sick happens, and it even happens to caregivers.

It's really hard when you're the caregiver to your husband or wife, because you really can't take a day off.

So what do you do when the flu strikes? It's not an easy thing to deal with, but there are some things that might help. Some are proactive, things you can do now.

  • Keep your spouse involved in self-care for as long as possible. The more the patient can reliably do for him-or-herself, the less of a burden it will be when your energy and ability is limited.
  • Keep your spouse involved in household chores as possible. Some patients will push to play their role in the household, while others will relax into a dependent role before it's situationally necessary. The latter should be forestalled, for the practical reason that their best efforts may be needed, and for the caregiving reason that premature dependency is a true morale-killer.
  • Write stuff down. You may be able to remember medication schedules, for instance, but at the time you need to call in outside help you may not be able to communicate them effectively.
  • Have an emergency reserve. Make sure you keep a week's supply of food and meds on hand. And have some cash available, if you need a friend or neighbour to shop for you.
  • Don't be ashamed to ask for help. If the patient no longer drives, and you're too sick to get the groceries or prescriptions, have a list ready of people whose assistance you can request. Ditto for help in the home; if you need it, you need it, so this is yet another reason for caregivers to maintain their own life, and their own friendships. There's nothing so precious as a friend who will come into your house and change a soiled adult diaper without complaint, when you just can't.
  • Be careful of exposure. Your spouse may have a drastically compromised immune system, so if you have something that can be highly contagious, take precautions. It may hurt not to kiss your husband or wife goodnight, but it's better than leaving him or her with a life-threatening illness.
  • Have an emergency plan. If you have to be hospitalized, is your spouse well enough to be left alone, with a friend to check in regularly? Or will you need a place that can provide the level of care needed, anything from a friend's house to a temporary stay in a care facility. It's too late to organize this when you've just called the paramedics because you're too sick to move.
What have I missed? What can you add?

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  1. Oh, wow, Andrew, these are good things to think about. Some I have in place but others would be good to set up. Mostly when my husband and I want to take a trip, we need to be sure our son is well cared for. He does tend to slip into a more dependent state than he needs to and that does seem to help land him in depression. But lately he's decided to make a list of what he needs to be doing to be strengthened each day and his attitude is more positive. Thank you for being such an inspiration to us. Blessings!

    1. Gayl, I'm so glad your son's attitude is improving. It's very easy to accept more help than one needs, and that is, in the long run, a road to depression.

      Thank you for your lovely words, and for being here today!

  2. As usual, you give some great ideas for those of us who know little about a care-giving lifestyle and situation, Andrew. And what came to my mind to add is that I bet there are those in this kind of situation that become isolated by the weight of the burden. It sounds like Barbara has been good to keep her friendships alive and well during this difficult time. But if she or "others like her" didn't they run the risk of not having anyone check on both caretaker and his/her spouse. And if the caretaker falls ill, the extremely ill spouse might not even have the reserves to call someone to come help.

    Praying for you, Andrew, as well as Barbara's ability to stay strong and healthy in your situation.

    1. Beth, you're right that isolation is a serious danger. A lot of that comes from time constraints and fatigue, but one should not overlook the embarrassment factor...it can be hard to keep up a Better Homes And Gardens house while working and caregiving, and someone who's expecting guests to be judgemental will step back from socializing.

      Thanks so much for the prayers, my friend. Praying for y'all as well.

  3. Something I did was to make a word document with all our websites we use, along with usernames and passwords. Often, I am the one doing all the online things and if I were to get sick or lose my memory, this would be something he'd need. Sometimes I visit that document because I have actually forgotten a password if it's an annual site we use. (like school registrations, etc)
    Make sure to keep it updated.
    But, especially email and social media accounts as well as banking, utilities, etc. Your spouse may need that information. :)
    Hopeful that this post doesn't mean that Barbara is sick. Love to you both!

    1. Tmmy, that's an excellent idea. It's so easy to overlook!

      Funny thing (well, not FUNNY), but 24 hours after I wrote this Barb came down with the stomach flu. She was feeling pretty awful through last night, but is a good bit better today.

      Love back!

  4. So much to think about, Andrew! You are so thoughtful to think of these things and share them with us!! I've thought of most of them; just need to be more pro-active in writing things down and making sure others would know what to do, etc.

    Thank you for sharing your life and observances!! Continuing to pray for you and Barb.

    1. Barbara, thanks so much...it can indeed be hard to be proactive when in caregiving mode. Each day seems like a new mountain to climb.

      Prayers are truly appreciated. Barb's got the stomach flu; better today, but still feeling a bit awful

    2. Hope Barb is much better today!! Hugs!!

  5. These are very good tips! Thank you! You have thought this through well.

    1. Rachel, thanks so much! I truly appreciate your input, and your presence here.

  6. Great tips, Andrew. The only one that I kept thinking of while reading is that some of us caregiver-types take on a superhero complex and need to actually ADMIT we're sick sooner and back away from caregiving in order to not get SO sick! :)

    1. Carol, thanks so much! That superhero complex can be hard to shake...and it can really make one MORE sick.

      I so appreciate your being here.