Today’s Day In the life guest blog comes from Martyn, a full time caregiver (not a LivHOME Caregiver or Care Manager) for his mother. Once a full-time Graphic Designer, he was thrust into a full time caregiver role for his mother as she needed more assistance around the house. We wanted to give you a glimpse into the transition from a full time career to a full time caregiver.
Becoming a caregiver is not something you plan for. At no point did I ever plan, or expect, to become a caregiver. For many years, I was a Graphic Designer, and had also spent 26 years as an army reservist. I’d been pretty active – mountain climbing, rock climbing, skiing, marathon running and mountain biking.
Two years ago, Mom started to have difficulty with everyday tasks. She became confused when trying to use the stove or the washing machine. She had a fall and broke her wrist, stairs were more difficult for her to use. Late 2011, she was diagnosed with vascular dementia.
Mom started to wander when left alone, and was once found outside, cold and confused. She hadn’t wandered far, but couldn’t work out how to get back home. It was clear that Mom would soon need to have someone take care of her. My employers would not allow me to work flexibly, to care for Mom, so early in 2012, I left my job, and started caring for Mom, but I still didn’t think of myself as a caregiver. Mom was still able to walk, and carry out many tasks for herself. Living on the top floor of a three-floor apartment building, with no elevators, stairs were becoming a problem. So we moved to a ground floor apartment, in a small two-floor building, designed for those with disabilities – wider doors, and a wet room with level access for wheelchairs. Mom was still able to walk, but a couple of months later, these features were to prove invaluable. In October 2012, Mom was hospitalized for three days having suffered a TIA and her mobility was declining. Over the next few weeks this worsened, and by the time she was hospitalized for a second time, with a UTI, she was no longer able to walk. After three weeks, she came back to a home, which now had a profile bed with pressure relief mattress, two gantry hoists, a wheelchair and a commode.
Visiting caregivers come by four times a day, helping Mom to wash, change her diaper and use the commode – she doesn’t understand why she no longer goes to the bathroom. Eating unaided has become more difficult, so most meals use foods that can be eaten without the need for a knife or fork, and drinks given in sip cups, to avoid spills. Keeping Mom occupied is a challenge. She has dolls and soft toys, an activity box and a memory box with old photos and items to trigger memories of her past. These help to encourage her to talk about the things she used to do, way back in the 1950s – before she was married, and well before I was born. In the evening, we watch TV or listen to her favorite music, mainly from the fifties and early sixties.
Visitors, both family and friends, have all but disappeared. They don’t understand Mom’s condition, and stay away because of their lack of awareness of dementia. Life has changed completely – I am now a caregiver. Everything I’d done before, has been put on hold, and my social life has, for the time being, ended. I now do for Mom, what Mom used to do for me; the selfless devotion she showed me when I was a child is now being returned, unreservedly. I never planned for it, nor did I expect it – it just happened. You don’t prepare to care – but you can be prepared to care.