Jun 24, 2024

A day in the life of a family caregiver

6:37 a.m.
A light scratching against the door and the morning light coming through the edges of the shades awoke me before my alarm had the chance to go off. You don’t get fed until 7:30 a.m., I mumbled to the cat as she continued to mew. It was Wednesday morning, the last day of classes for my graduating senior.

I grabbed my phone to see if there were any messages from the east coast where some of my family live. Silent. Whew, I thought. No emergencies overnight.

I jumped out of bed, ran into the laundry room to start a load of laundry, pushed the coffee maker button, and opened the fridge to see what I might find to make my son for breakfast on his last day of school.

The morning routine is pretty, well, routine:
Feed the cats.
Feed the dogs.
Feed the kid.
Give the animals fresh water.
Toss a load of laundry into the dryer and a load into the washer.
Walk the dogs.
Kiss my husband goodbye as he leaves for work.
Text my mom who just enrolled in hospice to see if she slept well and how her pain was on a scale of 0 to 10. A two. Great, I wrote back. The daily pain meds should bring that back down to a zero in an hour or so. I’ll check back in a bit later today.

Pour coffee.
Get a glass of water.
Time for a real breakfast or just grab a protein bar? I check my watch.

Several meetings at work today mean less time to meet some deadlines so I head into my home office a bit earlier.

Get a text from my son at school. Did you buy me a yearbook?
Yes, I respond.
They don’t have a record of it, he writes back.
Go ahead and buy one, and I’ll Venmo you the money later, I reply

The day goes on like this. If I’m lucky, I get to step away long enough to take the dogs for a quick mid-afternoon walk around the neighborhood. In my head, I’m balancing work, my aging mother’s care, my son’s needs, and even the needs of the aging neighbors around me. Occasionally, when I go out to get my mail or pull in my garbage cans, my neighbor will ask for IT support. She’s in her 70s and often wants to communicate with her daughter in England but struggles sometimes with how to do that.

I am a caregiver. My oldest will turn 27 when my youngest goes off to college in the fall. For 27 years there has been someone in my house to take care of. And now, my mother needs more care so I find myself flying up and down the west coast more often. I am a family caregiver. And I am a lucky caregiver because I have the advantage of working from home, taking a moment during the day to respond to the needs of my mother–the hospice nurse may call; the social worker calls sometimes; my mother

My needs get set aside. Often I am the last one to stop to care for myself. The dog walks, in many ways, are self-care. I can breathe fresh air, I can take a moment to regroup my thoughts. But even then, I’m caring for the pets. The real needs for my own self-care get pushed to the side so often I pause and ask myself: If I were watching me from afar, what would I tell myself?

Feel the water over my hands as I wash them.
Notice the soap as I hold it in my palm, the lavender pieces acting as a loofah.
Step back into work.
Place everything else into a container in my head and close it up for now.
Find gratitude for who I am and what I do.
I am a family caregiver.
I too need care and nurturing.
How am I feeling?
Notice the feeling.

Acknowledge the feeling.
Thank the feeling.

Begin where I am. Take one breath, and I will go from there

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