I was looking at Denise’s article ARGH: It’s Not About Putting Your Life on Hold, and decided to write about that, in relation to my caregiving experience.
Almost four years ago, my husband and I had a conversation with Elly, my grandma who was beginning to have issues living alone. She needed more than someone to check in on her and bring her meals every day. Family and friends were also concerned for her welfare. We offered the idea for us to live with Elly so that she could stay in her home where she was most familiar.
The subject of who Elly might live with or rely on had come up over 10 years ago, when the concern was how Elly would get around when her husband’s driver’s license was taken away. We did talk about the future. Elly said that, as a widow, she would consider living with my husband and me because our children would be grown and moved away as compared to NurseySister whose children were much younger. It was agreed that because of personalities, we would be more likely candidates to offer more care also. So, now we have moved in. We’ve been here nearly four years and still living our life.
This is our life.
Four years ago we made the decision to move totally out of our home and eventually to rent to some family members. We continue to live about two miles from that home and the same distance from church. We still intend to move back to our home but we are now landlords, so our life has changed a little but continues. We moved into a very small 1930s bedroom and have a hallway and bathroom on our side of Elly’s house. Again, this has changed how we live, a little. All of our household goods that we decided to keep and pack are boxed up and sitting in a large “work shed” in the backyard. There are some items we have on covered shelving so that we can access during camping season, canning season and Christmas. Clothing for different seasons also lives in bins in the shed and in the rafters in the garage. Our life has changed, again, just a little but not “on hold”.
We continue to own a tent trailer and a truck so we can continue to go camping. Elly can’t travel with us in the truck because she can’t get into it. That was a hard decision because we lived with Elly when our car died and we needed to buy a vehicle. In choosing our replacement vehicle, we knew we had to make a choice of what would work for transporting Elly or for our needs. We did choose something that worked best for us (towing our trailer). To make this decision work, we ran it by NurseySister, who lives next door. We were assured by NurseySister that we could always borrow her car to transport Elly to appointments and such. To date, this has worked out just fine but does add a little more work on my part to make the arrangements and go next door to get the car.
Our status with Elly bounces around between being “guests” and “guests with privileges”. I guess that’s the best way to put it. So, currently, we come and go – have keys to the house etc. But when it comes to meal times we are guests and the food comes out in abundance! We’ve been able to circumvent some of that by “hiding” food in the garage refrigerator which is our “old” one. We have found half a pound of cheese sliced up for sandwiches just for the three of us! So, I enforced the rule that I make dinner. Elly needs to wait and not try to orchestrate our dinner meal. It has been a hard fought road that was won. I am still working on lunch time.
We try to start our Saturdays by determining when we will have lunch and then announcing to Elly when we expect to eat. I know that if I don’t get into the kitchen 30 minutes before that pre-determined time, she will be there setting food on the counter, letting it “warm up” before heating it for lunch. Our life is a dance around lunch and dinner meals, except when we are out of town. Our life has changed, like when we had kids, but still living, not “on hold.”
Awesome Hubby and I plan a regular “get-away” every three to four months. This means going out of town. We do that for sanity reasons; I know you can understand this. I usually make sure we have snacks we love and no real time frame for meals. If I get a motel, it’s a King Size bed at a nicer than budget motel. Before moving in with Elly, we would go out of town (camping), but not quite that often just longer and sometimes I would go by myself. Now, I don’t leave AH by himself for the weekend anymore. We have found Elly’s “guest” or “take care of Husband” mode goes into overdrive and this doesn’t endear herself to AH. We have adjusted, slowly to this realization. We still “get away” but it’s for different purposes and more regularly. Fortunately, our “get aways” didn’t get put “on hold.”
I think that it will be interesting to me to see if our values will be the same once we move back into our own home. What will we not keep or unpack? What kind of “uncluttered” decorating will we have? Will we feel “free” and want to go and travel or feel “comfy” settling back into our own home and “territory”? Will we feel our life was “on hold” looking back? I don’t think so.
I can understand the feeling as if my “life is on jold” but our reality so far is that for us it is not. This may not be true for everybody! Make this a consideration though, if a caregiver chooses to move in with or have a caree move in with the caregiver. Life as the family caregiver knows it will not be the same. It can be Better! That’s my opinion according to my experience so far.