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When Is It Time to Look for a Care Facility?

By Janet Ferree, MA

(Page 1 of 4)

A difficult question? Certainly; and for most of us who have been caring for a disabled and/or sick loved one, an emotional and unsettling one to consider. I am not referring to people in their final stages of life or who suffer from conditions that spark uncontrollable actions. I am writing for those whose loved one continues to live indefinitely with no assistance from machines or other specialized medical care. In such a situation, there can come a time when living at home becomes unsafe, especially when the primary caregiver (usually a spouse or parent) is aging and has physical and/or medical limitations of his or her own.  There are many factors involved and regardless of the ultimate decision, there will be feelings of guilt from first consideration to final outcome.  I am currently wrestling with this question daily—sometimes hourly. For me, it boils down to a case of survival.  But whose, my husband’s or mine?

Here is the situation: My husband suffers from a progressive brain condition caused by cancer treatments twelve years ago.  The symptoms mirror multiple sclerosis.  He cannot walk, transfer alone or hear without hearing aids, and he has difficulty swallowing.  I must bathe him, clean his teeth, care for our house, and work for my medical insurance. He suffers recurrent bladder infections, memory lapses, and randomly vomits. He needs total care, but not constant supervision.  And he will never get better, only worse; or at best, plateau.

I can honestly say that I am burned-out in both body and mind. Physically, I have fallen with him, had my right elbow wrenched enough to develop tendonitis, and am plagued with neck strains that trigger migraines—all from helping my husband get out of and into bed, into/out of the car, up/down steps and ramps, with or without a gait belt or slide board.  Mentally, I am exhausted having to anticipate his physical needs, entertaining him, trying to figure out what he can (or will) eat so he doesn’t choke, and checking on him to see if he’s alive. I am hyper-aroused by the sound of his pager alarm that summons me when he needs something.  I have to hire someone to stay with my husband if I want to leave the house for a meeting, lunch date, or extended errant running.  I no longer accept party invitations because at twenty dollars per hour for a caregiver, I can’t afford it.  His sporadic health crises have caused me to cancel plans so often that I dropped out of church, friendships, visits with my family (I have a 93-year-old father who lives 400 miles away and can run circles around my husband) and can now not even remember how to enjoy myself.  I have fallen victim to depression and resentment, and I hate this.  I have two choices: keep him at home and keep the status quo or send him to a care facility—which is the equivalent of getting rid of him—and regain some sense of self.


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