In this series, Keiro aims to share different aspects of caregiving through community members’ stories.
For caregivers, a difficult job becomes even more challenging during a pandemic. These essential workers at home continue to face unexpected and new circumstances. Keiro virtually interviewed four caregivers; two caring for their spouses and two caring for their parents. In part 1, Keiro sat down with two caregivers caring for their spouses, Todd and Nancy, and heard about their experiences, challenges, and decisions they have made during this time.
Part 1: Caring for Their Partners – Todd and Nancy
Todd – Rolling with the Punches
For Todd, his family motto, “rolling with the punches,” is one of his go-to phrases while caregiving. “You got to be compassionate when things don’t occur as you wish they would. You just have to make sure things don’t get the best of you,” Todd says.
Besides being a diabetic, Todd’s wife has kidney failure, which requires a special dialysis procedure to clean her blood daily. Every night since October of 2019, Todd has been helping his wife with this peritoneal procedure. The process is manageable now since it takes place overnight while they sleep, but that was not always the case. Todd says when he underwent training for this procedure, there were many sleepless nights, long hours, and tough moments.
Since the pandemic began, Todd receives help regularly from his son and future daughter-in-law, who make an effort to visit every Sunday.
“He and his fiancée don’t want me to go out even for grocery shopping because of the pandemic. They’ve made my situation much easier.” Together they help with chores around the house, grocery shopping, cooking, running errands, cleaning, laundry, and even assist Todd when taking his wife to doctor appointments.
Todd says he misses his friends and doing things that he once did, like golf. He is not sure if he feels this way because of the pandemic or caregiving, but he understands and does his best to take things in stride.
Right now, helping his wife eat and managing her medication is often difficult and frustrating for him as a caregiver. “I have to talk her through ‘Okay, pick up a pill. Okay, put it in your mouth. Here’s some fluid.’ So as time goes on, that situation worsens.”
However, it is the small moments of joy, like seeing her eyes light up when they share an ice cream cone, that make this journey worth it. Todd says it is a journey he isn’t taking on alone. “The little things that occur that make you feel good, would be the things that I recommend people to cherish because things aren’t going to get much better. You just hope that things don’t get too bad.”
For now, Todd says he has the support he needs without any outside help but is thinking about the future and what additional care his wife might need.
Nancy – Taking Each Day as it Comes
Nancy is also staying positive and doing what she can to make the best out of an uncertain time. Counting her blessings helps her through some tough times, as she cares for her husband who was diagnosed with spinal stenosis. He has limited mobility and limited hand dexterity. She admits, “Of course, there’s a lot of stress involved and frustration,” but reminds herself that they’re both doing their best for each other.
Nancy has been a caregiver before the pandemic, but during this time, she has made changes to their home. She moved her husband downstairs to minimize his risk of falling, removed furniture to keep their space open, and cleaned out their belongings to stay organized. It’s part of her way of adjusting while also staying prepared.
Nancy is now busy compiling important documents and paperwork. She hopes to create a folder to log their banking information, medical records, and emergency information. In the event something happens, Nancy says this folder will serve as an accessible resource to alleviate any stress or if someone needs to step in.
Her son, who lives in Northern California, is unable to visit them for the time being because of the pandemic; however, he was very helpful prior to the travel restrictions.
Today, Nancy does her best to keep her husband home. In order to do so, she knows she must also take care of herself. “I try to stay healthy. Because if my health wasn’t good, then definitely there’d be another type of care because I’ll need care.”
Taking all the precautions, Nancy receives help from a professional caregiver who visits five times a week. On those days, Nancy can take time for herself to read, do puzzles, and exercise, including on her treadmill which helps her stay active safely at home. She likes to go on drives with her husband and meet with friends from a distance in parking lots. Together, Nancy and her husband also enjoy lunches outside on their deck and watching hummingbirds visit their new feeder.
“Right now, we’re all limited, but have a positive attitude,” Nancy says. “I take each day as it comes and try not to think too much about the future.” She adds that being prepared can help brace for what may come but says it is also important to cherish those rewarding moments.