Another challenging morning but things finally settled down this afteroon. I have been sitting here in dim light enjoying over an hour of doing absolutely nothing meaningful. I tried getting back to a letter I have begun four times, but even that feels like work. I stared long and hard at that laundry basket full of clean clothes and towels, but that definitely felt like work. Sometimes there is no call to answer. Nothing urgent.
Here’s the lesson:
To give good care, one must take good care. Simple really.
Caregiving after a surgery is not for whimps. Oh, I know how bad it is for the one who actually HAD the surgery … been there. But there is a nearly impossible task for the ones left to care for someone at the beginning of their healing journey.
The logistics are just a part of the equation that add up to disruption. Right now we have a bed in the middle of the living room. There are canes, walkers and a rather ugly chair in place of the usual furniture. The couch is piled high with pillows and blankets, some of which make up a bed for me so I can be nearby for emergencies and pill distribution. (FYI: I do not recommend a cushy leather couch for sleeping ).
There is a cryotherapy icing unit, complete with water, ice and challenging fasteners on two long tubes. Depending on the whim of the patient, this must be moved with every shift in sit/stand status. There is a tray for everything that needs to be within reach. We have a small house. A small living room. None of this fits.
On the counter are a dizzying array of meds. I have the schedule made and I dispense each dose (with the help of ALEXA) every three hours or so. We did this all in March so I wasn’t too surprised but there was one notable exception. The pharmacist now dispenses (as an option) Narcan with a prescription for pain pills (opioids). It shocked me at first, but once I thought about it, it did make perfect sense. It’s the “just-in-case-hope-you-never-need-it” choice if an accidental overdose occurs. I can’t imagine someone having to take these drugs without some assistance in keeping the dosage correct. I’m glad for Kelly that she has me.
It is a new world for sure.
We also have three pets, two of whom are constantly in need of physical connection. That might be my fault. Kelly is the “alpha” . I am in charge of all things love and attention. Ordinarily, it is a good balance. In the couple weeks after surgery it is nearly impossible to try to assume both roles. (But here I am trying to write with a cat on me. And he is no petite cat))
Gus needs to be touching. He is definitely my baby boy. It’s almost as if he uses touch to charge the more primitive parts of his nature. He seems pretty centered, not wild, when he is settled in to his spot on my chest or lap. (It works that way for me as well.) He is a perfect caregiver in his own right too. He waits until K is sleeping, then curls up with her, resting his paw on her hand. He is a sweet, sweet boy.
And then there is Yoda. Walks with him are cathartic. Fresh air, exercise and his exuberance are key to that. This dog lives for his trips around the neighborhood. He takes me the same way every day and marks the same bushes, trees, fences and hydrants. Bonus if he sees another dog. Triple bonus if it’s a squirrel or cat). He can give care in his own way too. He senses that she is fragile and jumps up on the couch next to her to offer kisses and his own canine comfort.
Kelly is having a more difficult time with this surgery. More pain and more discomfort. I know she needs me to do this work with kindness and not frustration but it isn’t easy. It isn’t just caring for her. It’s caring for pets, myself and on top of all that, trying to keep up with every little part of the work that supports all three. Medication, meals, laundry, dishes, pet “stuff”, walks … the list is never ending.
Caregiving can make me feel a little unworthy. It chips away at my patience and makes me feel selfish for wanting a few minutes when no one needs me. I have so much that I need to try to do with this time. Once I am back to work, the days will go barreling toward the holiday season with nothing to stop them. There are just 9 days off for me to be ready for Christmas.
I guess I’m desperately seeking balance.
Maybe it is actually going okay. The pets help more than hinder (though mornings around here are alive with the hot poker of chaos). We all have needs as we rise for the day. I’ll get better. As our routine has become more settled, the days feel calmer by afternoon. By the time I get it down, I’ll have to return to work and hope I have helped get us over the hump. And then there will be a new normal. A new routine.
When you take immune suppressants, things get worrisome. Three days in the hospital worried me. All the stress and lack of sleep worried me. Not sleeping in an actual bed since last Sunday worried me. My (good) shoulder was a hot mess after sleeping on a bench seat for two nights in the hospital. (Thankfully it mostly resolved itself so that didn’t make it to the worry list.)
This week could have gone much worse so I should be happy for the fact that my annoyance with a multitude of tasks is the worst thing so far. I just came in from a walk with Yoda and the smell of wood smoke makes me long for a real fireplace. Later, I’ll be grateful for the letters I have to reply to, and the stunning photos being sent me by a friend. I’ll stay happy for my walks and look forward to a little art time next week.
In for a dime, in for a dollar.
My hat is off to the folks who give care for a living and to those, like myself, who have fallen into it by circumstance. Not for whimps, sure, but just the thing to remind me that my life is here, beneath my feet.