My Amazing Caregiver

My Amazing Caregiver

Posted on January 6, 2014 by ElderCare Resources Phoenix in Blog, Caregiver Education, Education, Home Care Non-Medical, Independent Living

By: Steve Wartenberg – The Columbus Dispatch

Pants and socks are no problem … but I still can’t put on a darn shirt by myself.

And don’t even get me started on showering. Actually, I can shower just fine, it’s the drying off part afterwards that’s difficult, especially my … well, you don’t have to know what parts are hard to reach!

“Move your elbows together,” Susan invariably has to remind me as she helps me put on a shirt after she’s helped me dry off after a shower.

A therapist in the hospital taught us the complicated procedure of putting on a T-shirt or long-sleeve cotton shirt without moving my shoulders much at all, since it really hurts when I move my shoulders much at all. Susan holds the shirt out in front of me and I gently slide my hands through the arm openings, the left one first. Then, she scrunches the shirt up, towards my shoulders and head, and then gently lifts the head opening up and over my still-healing and still-tender scalp and ears and into place.

And then I let out a big sigh, as the whole process – and the last two months – have been exhausting.

And not just for me. These past several weeks have been just as exhausting and difficult for Susan, my caregiver. Maybe even more so for her. Let’s just say it’s not an easy job being the caregiver for someone who is impatient, stubbornly independent and a bit of a micromanager. These are traits that have served me well as a newspaper reporter, but not so much as a patient.

I’ve also been a bit moody and grouchy from time to time (I blame the traumatic brain injury for this), and have exhibited a few minor symptoms of depression, especially the day after a sleepless night.

And then there’s all the accumulated frustration from not being able to do what I normally used to do and took for granted that I could do. This leads to even more impatience, grouchiness and depression. Unfortunately, try as I might not to, Susan’s the one I seem take my frustrations out on. Sorry Susan.

It’s not all gloom and doom, however. Things – and the various parts of my body – are slowly on the mend. I’m more mobile, feeling a little stronger every week and am going to start back at work here at the Dispatch next week on a part-time basis. I can’t wait, it’s time to get on with my life, even if my body isn’t quite healed completely.

It sure has been a rough road to recovery … and thank goodness for Susan.

She’s not only had to take care of me and do all the household chores she normally does, but she’s also had to do all the chores I used to do.  She’s had to schedule and take me to doctor’s appointments, pick up my prescriptions, do all the grocery shopping and cooking and cleaning up afterwards, keep family and friends appraised on my progress and take care of our four demanding cats.

And, of course, she has to help me shower and get dressed and a hundred other things big and small.

It’s not an easy job, but Susan’s been amazingly patient, caring, loving and thorough, even when my restless tossing and turning and snoring (I’m forced to sleep on my back, which in turn makes me snore) wakes her up three or four times a night.

“I’m just doing what needs to be done for you,” she said the other night in a matter-of-fact and modest way.

None of this is surprising, as I’ve known from the start that Susan is an amazingly patient, caring and loving person. I think that’s why she became a nurse: she’s a natural nurturer.

I am not, although Susan’s influence has helped me wander in this direction more and more over the years.

Intellectually, I always knew and have seen first-hand the importance of caregivers and the role parents, spouses, siblings and friends play in the recovery process after a traumatic injury such as the one I suffered on Nov. 3. And for people battling cancer, dementia or some other horrible disease or ailment.

But actually seeing it in action, on a daily basis, up close and very personal, has been a real eye opener.

I realize how lucky I am to have such an amazing caregiver, and I have to wonder: If (God forbid) the situation was reversed, would I be able to be as patient, caring and loving caregiver. I know I’d want to and try to be such a caregiver, but I also know I’m not as naturally nurturing, patient, caring and loving as Susan.

Then again, she’s set the standard and showed me the way, and I’m optimistic her example has made me a more compassionate and caring person.

While I’m proud to proclaim Susan the world’s greatest caregiver, I know I’m a bit prejudiced and there are thousands of other amazing caregivers out there providing their loved ones with the support and help they so desperately need.

So, think of this as an opportunity to tell the world about your caregiver, in the comments section below. And you can contact me at:swartenberg@dispatch.

By: Steve Wartenberg – The Columbus Dispatch