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Caring for my self as a caretaker

  • Location: Marysville,
I am a full time caretaker of my grandmother in law. She has had 3 major strokes and requires 24 hour care. She is unable to move in anyway without someone moving her. She has a PEG tube for some feedings and all meds. She needs a pretty high level of care. It takes a lot physically and mentally to care for a person who is completely dependent on you for their every need. We took grandma in right as Covid-19 hit. Everything slowed to a crawl in the medical world, which included getting the in home extra care grandma needs. All her care landed on my family. This means adult diaper changing, bathing, dressing, medications, feeding, turning, emotional support, scheduling appointments, keep track of her monthly bills and paying for her needed care items, ordering all her supplies, making calls on her behalf to keep her services going and so forth. It is a full time job. We turned out downstairs family room into her home and make shift hospital room. She has a hospital bed, wheelchair, lift, oxygen, feeding tube station and many other devices and machines to monitor her health. As soon as she came to us from the hospital we had to hit the ground running. Though I have worked in patient care in my life, it is not the same as caring for your aging family. Your own family in your own homes mean little to no down time. With Covid raging I could not even get an in home caretaker for a full year. Services were on hold or canceled all together. My family and I had to learn quickly how to manage her care. It was all by trail and error that we figured each task needed for caring for grandma. It became the first thing I did in the morning and the last thing I did at night. Looking after grandma took over almost every aspect of my life. I didn't have time for even the most basic self care for myself. I put almost everything else on the back burner and made sure all of grandma's needs were being met. It left little to no time for me to do anything other than work. I worked 25- 30 hours a week. I couldn't take time off as I still needed my income. I had to learn to get creative with my time and resources. I had a lot of help from my adult children. For that I am very grateful. My husband did as much as we could. He was mostly supportive of me and the work it took caring for his beloved grandmother. I knew with the level of care she needed that I would have to get in home care soon. While we waited for care to become available, we did everything together. While the extra family time is very rewarding. It is also easy to lose yourself in caring for others. I really started to eat poorly and rush through meals. I was not going for regular exercise and I didn't have a lot of time to just be by myself. I worried so much about doing things right. It was stressful and I was tired. I had to give up school for a time to be sure I had enough time to be home for grandma. We got in a good rhythm. Things got little more relaxed as we all got used to doing our parts. I still neglected myself more than I should have. I was still working and full time caretaking. At year one, when Covid was still wildly unpredictable, we finally got approved and had an in home caretaker available to us. We were excited. It would free up time and energy to have someone looking after grandma during the day. She was approved for 35 hours a week. This meant I could work more hours to catch up on missing income and also spend time on something other than being fully in caretaker mode all the time. We love our caretaker. She is very helpful and has taken so much stress off my place. I still am not very good at taking care of my self but I am making an effort to make myself a priority. Grandma seems to like her caretaker. Not that she talks so much anyway. Since her last stroke she has lost a lot of her speech skills. I am grateful for the help. I think as caretaker, healthcare workers and women it is very easy to become overwhelmed with caring fully for others. We do it very young. We are often taught it is our role in our families to care for everyone. I know as a woman of color, indigenous, I was raised to put all other before myself. Including, husband, children, elders and other family. It is our job to serve others. Although, I am very comfortable in the position of caring for others. I do get tired and weary from letting my own needs go. So many in my age group are sandwiched between their kids, parents and grandkids or aging grandparents. With rising cost of living and housing costs. A lot of us live in multigenerational families, like my own family. Native American families don't often put their elders in nursing homes. It was an easy choice to bring my husband's grandmother home to be cared for by people who know and love her. Though there is a sense of loss of self when caring for others so fully, there is also very special and beautiful parts to giving ones self to the cause of others. I am so happy and very fortunate to have extra time with grandma. She is with us everyday till the end. Whenever that may be, she is such a huge part of our family. I wouldn't have it any other way.