(Editor’s Note: Please feel free to connect with Cindy on her profile page: @kccindy56.)
I’m Cindy and I’m 57 years old, and have been caregiving for my 85-year-old father for several years now. My husband, Jim, and I are still sort of newlyweds, getting ready to celebrate our two-year anniversary on August 20, 2013. Jim works full-time. I’ve been on medical disability for the last 5 ½ years due to severe osteoarthritis and a back injury. I also suffer from depression and fibromyalgia, so I fight chronic fatigue and pain.
I plan on blogging about all these issues, touching at different times on the various aspects of this caregiving experience, including the stresses of being in a new marriage and living with my new husband in my childhood home with my dad, my dad’s extremely negative nature, dealing with my own issues of depression and pain, and dealing with the unknown road ahead.
My husband, Jim, and I moved in with my dad to take care of him on Memorial Day weekend of this year. We had been talking about the possibility of moving in over the prior several months, but were originally going to do it very slowly. Jim and I were living about 45 minutes away from my childhood home. My dad was originally being treated for prostate cancer and the beginning stages of dementia, as well as some heart issues (irregular rate and rhythm). He had pretty much stopped driving, admitting to me that he kept getting lost. (It was such a relief for him to make the decision on his own to stop driving!!) So I was going to his house at least once a week for grocery trips and to take him to the doctor. We had already told my dad we were concerned about him living alone and that he was going to have to either get into assisted living, or have us move in with him.
I took him to look at assisted living, but he was not impressed. So we had decided to make a SLOW move into his house, since we had a big house full of furniture and other “stuff”, and so did my dad. We were going to take our time and sell some stuff, make room, ease into it.
Then my dad got really sick and was admitted to the hospital. Further testing showed he had slow growing colon cancer and fast growing bladder cancer. My dad is 85 years old and has been a widower since my mom died 12 years ago of lung cancer. He’s not interested in any surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation therapy, which I totally agree with. They were able to remove the bladder tumor, but unfortunately, it’s the type of cancer that is embedded into the bladder wall and is a very fast growing cancer. He would have to have surgery for the colon tumor, which he opted not to have. The doctors say that the bladder cancer will grow so much faster than the colon tumor, anyway.
We ended up having to make our move fast instead of slow, since he could not be alone once he was released from the hospital. It was a very stressful move! The first month was sort of a blur. It seems like it took at least that long to find the boxes that held all the day-to-day items I needed, and for the three of us to fall into something even closely resembling a routine. As of this writing, we are about to end the third full month of this new living situation.
My dad, Jim and I all go to the same doctor, which has been very helpful!! Our doctor is a great woman whom I have known for about 25 years. Once we got moved, she recommended that I get hospice involved in my dad’s care, explaining to me that hospice isn’t just for “the very end”, like most people think, and that some patients are in hospice for one to two years. She made the referral and it was a great relief once he was admitted to their program. It’s reassuring to know that there is someone now that I can call any time, 24/7, if I have a problem or question!
Right now, a hospice nurse comes once a week to check his vitals, talk about his medications, and see how things are going. My dad is ambulatory and is doing pretty well right now. He does sleep a lot. He likes to sit in the kitchen and watch television. My dad’s house is a split level, so Jim and I have moved into the downstairs, family room part for some privacy. We installed a door to separate our space from the kitchen.
Another twist in my story is that I am very close to my 9 ½ year-old granddaughter and have had her every other weekend since she was born. So, every other weekend, she is now part of this new life at my dad’s house, too.
Here are some of the things I want to blog about in the future:
- Dealing with my dad’s negativity – trying to enjoy time with him
- Coping with my own illnesses as well as my dad’s
- Figuring out how to not stress out and take care of myself
- The fear of the unknown road ahead
- Trying to maintain my personal and our couple’s social lives
- Trying to travel, enjoy a vacation without worrying about my dad
- Every other weekend – 3 generations under one roof
- Moving our cat into a cat-hater’s house
I look forward to sharing my story with other caregivers. My goal is to let off some steam, commiserate with others, share ideas for coping strategies, and give and receive emotional support.
I love to write and I feel this blog will be therapeutic for me. I’m looking forward to getting to know you. Please feel free to give me comments, advice, or ask questions. Thanks!
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