The last month or so the roles in my relationship with my husband have been reversed. It’s throwing me for a loop, to say the least. You see, I am use to being the patient and my husband, for the last 12 years has been the caregiver. It has been me that is the lucky one living with chronic pain and illnesses and my husband has always been the healthy one. That is up to a few weeks ago……
Changes Are Happening
My husband, Eric has always been really healthy. Except for a cold here and there, he is never sick. He has only had surgeries for injuries from work. He’s a police officer and two different surgeries from injuries from arresting people. Other than once, he hasn’t been really sick except when he got the flu shot and was allergic to it and got extremely sick. Other than that, he has always taken care of me. I’m used to these roles.
Recently, Eric has been having problems with his stomach. It started gently. He’s getting worse now more recently. He went to see his primary doctor and they did some test, all but one came back normal. One came back white blood cells in his stool. So we went to see the specialist on Friday. All the while he is getting worse. Specialist can’t confirm what is going on till we do another exam, a colonoscopy. This is scheduled for this Tuesday, June 13th.
Update As Of Today
Today is June 22, 2017, and Eric has been diagnosed with colon cancer with it possibly spreading to the liver. We are trying to get through this time in our life but things have definitely changed since the last 6 months. How is one to handle it when the caregiver becomes the patient and te patient becomes the caregiver?
Caregiver Becomes The Patient
When the caregiver becomes the patient, worlds flip upside down. Normally the caregiver is a family member and that person has a tendency to become sick. According to Keith Black, MD who serves as Chairman of the Department of Neurosurgery and Director of the Neurological Institute at Cedar-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, states the following:
First, it’s important to understand that you, the caregiver, may be extra susceptible to health problems so be sure to not overlook your own well-being while attending to your loved one’s. He believes that caregivers don’t recognize their own health needs because they are so focused on the patient. And symptoms that may pose as simple fatigue, irritability or sadness could be signs of a real health problem. So it’s important not to dismiss them.
This is the case with my husband. Back in December/January time frame, Eric was feeling very run down and overly exhausted even thought he was going to the gym all the time. His body was shutting down and he just wasn’t feeling good. It was once when he realized that he wasn’t feeling great and saw his primary care, did he realize that something wasn’t right.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services suggests looking for the following signs of stress…
- Feeling angry or sad,
- Feeling like it’s more than you can handle,
- Sleeping too much or too little,
- Having trouble eating or eating too much,
- Losing interest in things you used to enjoy
Dr. Black agrees; “If you are a caregiver, hats off to you. Please take care of yourself and listen to your body and brain. While you may believe it’s best to pour all your energy and time toward caring for your loved one, if it’s at the expense of your own health, it will affect the quality of your life and your care. If things get overwhelming, ask for help.” Find other caregivers who you can talk to. They are people who truly understand what you’re going through. Be smart and be sure you’re there for yourself, too.
Caregiver Ability To Take Care Of Themselves
Feeling under the weather may be unavoidable, but you can help avert your own debilitating health problems in the first place by taking steps to take care of yourself. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services suggests the following…
- Exercise regularly. Exercise reduces stress and depression and helps keep you fit,
- Eat a good, balanced diet with smart food choices that protect you from heart disease, bone loss, and high blood pressure,
- Get regular sleep,
- Don’t overwork your back,
- Ease your mood by taking slow, deep breaths, listen to soothing music, take a relaxing bath,
- Make time for yourself. Go away and do something you enjoy (see a movie, gather with friends, etc.)
Now I Am The Caregiver And I Have To Take Care Of Myself And Him.
When roles change, it’s hard on the once patent to become a caregiver. I’ve struggled the ladybug few weeks to remind myself to still take care of myself. Simple daily things, such as taking my medications have been put to the wayside. Eric was always the one to give my medications but now for some reason it’s hard for me to remember to even take them. But I’m suppose to remember to take my medications and remind him to now take his.
I believe that one the roles change, communication is the key to success. It’s hard to switch roles and be once the patient and then the caregiver. In my eyes, it was easier being the patient than the caregiver. Having procedure after procedure, surgery after surgery was easier for me to deal with than to sit by and watch a loved one go through that. It is one of the things I dislike most about being a caregiver.
Being A Caregiver Doesn’t Mean Forgetting Yourself.
Eric was a wonderful and caring caregiver and I hope that I can do him justice by being as good as he was. I am trying my best at being a caregiver, but it’s a foreign role to me and I must learn how to do it. It’s not that I can’t, it’s more that I have to learn how to take care of him but also remember to continue to take care of myself. I have to remind myself that I am only 6 months out from my 5th back surgery and I still have to take it easy. But Eric is in need of more care than I am at this time.
It’s okay to have selfish moments with yourself. Taking time to care for yourself makes you a better caregiver. You will find that you have more energy, focus, and the ability to be more compassionate. If you forget to take care of yourself, you will find yourself resenting the patient and not providing the best care of him/her. You don’t want to do that to someone you love. You need to be able to be focus 100% on the patient when the time comes but take that time for yourself. You’ll thank yourself in every long haul.
If your life changes and you find yourself becoming either the patient and once was the caregiver or vise versa, remember that you don’t need to be perfect in your role. You do the best that you can and make sure that you continue to take care of yourself along this new journey. It’s okay to have times when things are uneasy. It’s okay not to be the perfect caregiver and most of all it’s okay to occasionally put yourself first. But remember there is a reason you have been put in that position she treat it like a job and take great pride in your work.
More will be coming on my journey from patient to caregiver so stay tuned for that.