I'm talking about my full time job as a caregiver in the wee hours of this morning. I started earlier than expected this morning with a feeble cry from my DH, "Buddy's out!"
That was at 2:30. I'd been in a deep, hard sleep for maybe an hour and a half. Somehow how he'd gnawed his cage closure until it opened. My usual command, "Get in your pen." didn't work. He was too worked up from cavorting free with all the open space of the house, and with the cats and dogs. But no, this AM with my eyes trying to stay open, I'm corralling and coaxing him back into his cage. He finally decided he'd had enough fun and it was time to go to his pen. He jumped in and promptly plopped himself in a comfortable position. I fastened his cage with the first thing I could grab, two jumbo paper clamps and pushed a ladder back chair against the door for good measure.
"Take that!" I said with a sleep deprived, maniacal chuckle. My rabbit Houdini could care less at this point. I'm half heartedly afraid that he'll figure a way out. But now, my hubby is comfortably asleep and I'm semi wide awake.
I opened the pet door for the cats to do an early morning prowl and the dogs could go out if they wanted to, and grabbed a Coke Zero out of the fridge. Now I sit in front of this computer until the next round of medicine pass at 6 and 7 AM. You couldn't pay me enough to go back to sleep at this point. You see. I'm not only a caregiver for my husband but for me a stroke survivor with a terminally ill hubby, rabbit, Guinea pig, chickens, cats, dogs, garden, and life in general. AND you thought you had it rough as a caregiver. I'm a caregiver treading water...oh, I forgot to mention...I'm also a part-time caregiver for a father who has rapid onset Alzheimer.I could use a caregiver, but nobody is as good as me. Nobody would be insane enough to want my life.
I could go on and on with the multiple jobs I do as a caregiver. I have multiple posts on the subject which highlights just a glimpse into my world, BUT that's not the gist of what I want to talk about here. This is...
Hope, survival, joy, and peace of a caregiver is what I want to stress in this blog piece. These are the MasterCard "priceless" moments I get from being a caregiver.
- Nobody can do it better
- The laughter
- The companionship
- Never a dull moment
- I did it THEIR way.
I say this with some shargrin, nobody can do it better than me. Sure, I can pay someone to come in and lightening the load for me...like hospice, but while they are great, fabulous, and awe inspiring they can't take the place of me. What hospice amounts to is a home based nursing home. They do their time and go home to their own lives. This is my life. Everything in my being me revolves around the personal care of the care receiver. Whether it's a hurt bird that my cats bring me, any messes that are created, or anything I attempt. Will it get done by someone else, yes it can, but not with the passion I bring. The motivation is different. Theirs is a job, but with me it's life. Life is priceless.
The laughter of that entity is what I miss the most and often talk about afterwards. Whether they've caused the laughter or it's shared. If you cannot laugh at yourself, you are a mightily sad person. Like the picture says, "Laughter is the best medicine." How many times while interviewing a family before a funeral has someone broke out in laughter. Each and every time. Someone will recount some antic, story, or quirk of the dearly departed that causes a chuckle or two. I wouldn't miss it for the world.
The sharing of laughter is a priceless gift. Laughter even through tears brings joy in the remembrance.
The companionship is based on trust. Whether it's talking about what to have for dinner or final wishes. Whether it's just talking to a dumb animal who may or may not understand a word that you are saying, or snuggling up to your beloved. Buddy has picked up the habit when he sees me coming of jumping into his litter box, and then hopping to the cage door sticking his nose through the cage openings. When I open his cage, my knee partially blocks the opening and he'll give it oh-so-soft bunny kisses. There is another form of companionship. One of the cats will form circle eights around your legs, or a dog will curling up at your feet barely touching your shoes. All of this is priceless.
Constantly being adaptable to most is a major headache, but to me it brings joy. I never forget to look for the good in spite of the bad. Being adaptable allows you to see the beauty around you. Yes, it's hard to seek beauty when changing an adult diaper, but noticing clear, unbroken skin where a pressure sore once was is reward enough. Stopping in cleaning dishes and peering out the window at the neighbor's child as he examines an ant hill. Allowing for change for there will always be changes. Rolling with what comes and finding the joy in it is probably the hardest thing to do. But when you adapt it's priceless.
There is never a dull moment around this house. Something is always happening. Whether it's a rabbit getting out of his cage in the wee hours, power failures, too much rain, falls, chaos, and mayhem. If it can happen, it will happen in my house. Sure other people have stuff happen in their houses, but coming to my house is a vacation to them. They leave thinking, "I'm glad this wasn't my lot in life."
That's okay. I'm happy and I'll never be bored. I've always been a proactive, grab-the-bull-by-the-horns type of person. Maybe that's why I'm a Taurus. Other people's lives seem so boring to me. I strive for interaction. I've got it in spades and it's priceless.
The best thing about being a caregiver is that I'm giving someone else THEIR way. It's the most priceless gift of all. I've been a caregiver in one shape or form or another my whole life and too numerous to count.
Having the responsibility of the whole caregiving lifestyles can be daunting at times, but brings you immeasurable returns in enriching your life. You get to experience the joys, heartaches, and be a part of someone's life in a way no other has a chance to. To give of yourself. To be the best of yourself. And it's an act of selflessness unsurpassed by none short of dying. It's cost is almost nil except for time, but the whole experience is priceless.
There comes an inner peace of giving it all. Similar to a marathon runner who crosses the finish line at the end of the race. It proves over and over again that you can survive against the odds. There is satisfaction in knowing your have given comfort until the end and it was a job well done. It may not have been pretty in the doing, but it's gorgeous when complete.
Would I swap lives with someone else and see how the other half lives? Not a chance. I could have run and hidden away when the caregiving opportunities arose, but I have found more about myself and what I am capable of being a caregiver. A view most people only dream of.
Even as a stroke survivor, I'm challenging myself daily doing most of what needs to be done as a caregiver. Some things fall through the cracks like vacuuming or dusting, but I'm there in the moment pushing the limits that I might not have done otherwise if I didn't have to. But therein lies an added benefit for me in the future...I'm doing it.
Nothing is impossible with determination.