...From a Caregiver's Journal
Each one of us experiences 60 minutes in an hour, 24 hours in a day, 7 days in a week, and one day follows another; life progresses. Everybody has a busy life and roles to fulfill. The first time I became a caregiver, my grandfather was diagnosed with cancer; I was a wife, dog owner, granddaughter, daughter, sister, aunt, friend…well, you get the picture. I was a full-time office employee, a part-time college instructor, co-ordinator of a college program, and worked a few hours in a salon each week. I was busy. Life was hectic and being a caregiver added to my already very busy schedule.
Not many caregivers have the luxury of placing their lives on hold so they can focus solely on becoming a caregiver. I was very fortunate that my office job was with my uncle who was my grandfather’s son, so even if I wasn’t in the office, I could work from home and put in the time. Not every place of employment is flexible. Many caregivers lose and or suffer financially and or endure an emotional strain in accepting the role of caregiver. Caregiving may be a labor of love, but it can add stress to the caregiver or their immediate family; the spouse and children may be affected as family dynamics change.
I can only share my experiences. I was present for all of the doctor visits, tests at the hospitals, VON (Victorian Order of Nurses), and homecare visits from many organizations. I was a chauffeur, responsible for picking up medications and supplies (home deliveries of such items were not always common at that time). I had to dispense medications at specific times; medications and dosage amounts changed as the disease progressed. Life was about juggling and managing to stay on top of so many things!
There were constant changes, not one day was like the last. I learned to not have expectations as things could change at any moment. I learned to become flexible. Many times I felt that I had so much on my plate. I just looked up to the heavens and stated: “Really God? You’re giving me more?” I felt that I was burning the candle not just at both ends but in the middle too. I was dealing with work, visitors, medications, emergency room visits, and scheduled hospital visits…testing this, scanning for that…one thing or another; it was busy. I gave up working at the salon, but I still had work obligations ensuring wages and payments were done on time. I had instructor responsibilities and the responsibilities of caring for the needs of my dog’s…it seemed the list never ended. There were calm moments and then it would become hectic as good days became bad days, it was an ongoing cycle...
It was one of those moments of calm where I committed to having company from Germany; a family of four. It seemed Ota’s last surgery was going to give him a reprieve and his prognosis had hit a plateau. Unfortunately, change hit us…first SARS and then the cancer had spread and an extended stay in hospital was needed. I questioned my abilities to cope during stressful changes. Could I manage all that was required of me? I asked God to let me deal with what was on my plate before giving me more! I understood what Mother Teresa meant in saying: “I know God won’t give me anything I can’t handle. I just wish he didn’t trust me so much!”
It was not always easy to juggle and manage the stressful challenges in life. I did cope and overcome the stressful challenging times. SARS no longer was a threat, Ota got weaker, my company arrived, I could not give them the attention I wished to but they were once caregivers so they understood that life and death do no take holidays, and even without holidays, and when life is not easy, having precious time together is worth it!