Doris is a hero. That’s what people tell her anyway.
When her sister’s Alzheimer’s disease progressed enough that she could no longer live alone, Doris moved her into the spare room. After all, she had experience as a caregiver. Her husband had passed from cancer the year before.
Doris had already given up a lot to care for her husband. She took early retirement from a job she loved. She quit volunteering at the hospital. She stopped paying for her gym membership and gave up her passion for yoga.
When her sister moved in, Doris found a routine that focused on the essentials. Grocery shopping. Errands. Meal planning. Doctor’s appointments.
As time progressed….Medications. Baths. Toileting.
Doris’s sister starting getting up in the middle of the night, and sleeping most of the day. Doris slept enough. But not really enough. She stopped scheduling herself appointments at the dentist and the doctor. She stopped going for her daily walk. Her interactions with friends and neighbors became limited.
Her family calls her a hero. Or a saint. They act like she’s Mother Theresa.
But the problem, according to Doris, is that they forget that she is a freaking human being. They seem to think she has magical super powers that make her an amazing caregiver.
But she doesn’t. She’s just a 55-year-old Midwestern widow who is doing her best.
And she’s tired.
She didn’t want to quit her job. She misses yoga class and her friends. She wishes her sister could carry on a decent conversation, and she’s sick of cooking.
She promised her sister that she’d never place her in a nursing home, and she’s starting to wonder if she will regret that promise.
She loved her husband. She loves her sister.
It’s important to her to care for those she loves, but it’s exhausting.
She does a lot of laughing, and she does some crying. Some days she thinks she’s doing well. Other days she wonders if she’s failing. Every once in a while, she gets a good night’s sleep and feels like herself. Most days she feels like someone took her brain out of her head and her body just carries on.
A while back, she took an online quiz that claimed to diagnose her with “mild depression.” She had expected “moderate” or even “severe” depression, so she found it reassuring. She had promised herself if it hit the “moderate” category she’d consider counseling. Maybe telehealth. She’s not sure if someone could come stay with her sister while she went to an appointment.
She feels it’s a privilege to care for others, but it’s hard. And when her sister in gone, she’s not sure what will be left of her.
Because she’s a human being. Just a regular human being.
One thought on “Caregiving Heroes and Saints”
I just reread your blog on Dementia, Nursing Homes, Guilt Trips and The Promise. How I wish I could send it to my husband’s family. My 59 yo husband was diagnosed with Early Onset Alzheimer’s back in 2016. I’ve had to make every decision on my own, and handle all his physical, mental, and financial needs. I placed him in a memory care center last August and of course, that’s really not the decision they would have made. My MIL even asked if I’d let the ex-wife take care of him in her house, as she had experience as her dad and aunt lived with her. No, they didn’t have Alzheimer’s but caring for a person is all the same, right? Ha!
I love your writing. Keep up the good work.
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