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Welcome to CareNotes. In this special section we will feature a reader's letter and provide an opportunity for an interactive exchange that will help find some answers and possible solutions to concerns. If you wish to respond to this letter, simple follow the link provided at the end of the letter and add your comments and thoughts to our CareNotes Board.

This Week's Carenote - 12/16/09

It seems that all the tips I see and hear about deal with the loved one still being at home, still living with the caregiver. 
My wife is just 63 years old and is now in a nursing home and this is our first Christmas being apart and I am finding that this holiday season is really the pits.  I have 2 children that have their "heads in the sand".  I will be spending a good bit of time with her at the facility, but that does not make anything easier, still being alone.  I know I am not the only one feeling this way.  I guess I am looking for suggestions.
Thank you.



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Name: Cindy
Location: Evansville, IN
Date: 12/16/2009
Time: 09:11 AM


My heart goes out to you--my mom spent last year in ICU followed by the four months in a rehab unit and nursing home, and the holidays were definitely not the same without her presence. Do you have friends or other family who may be alone and would enjoy your company during this time? Your wife may have always been the one to organize get-togethers; if so, you may have to now take the lead in inviting others to spend the holiday season with you. If you're involved in a church, there are usually many opportunities to participate in holiday activities; even special ones geared to those who do not find this time of year to be as joyous as others do. Finally, agencies and organizations are always looking for volunteers this time of year; giving to others may help lessen your sense of loss this year. Spend as much time as possible making the holiday special for your wife in her new surroundings, but don't feel guilty taking time for yourself to make new traditions or just grieving for what the holidays no longer are. There are no right or wrong feelings; even your children may be experiencing sadness or loss but simply don't know how to communicate that to you or your wife. Reach out to them if possible and try to help them understand what both of you are feeling. Good luck and God bless!

Name: swagner
Location: miami
Date: 12/16/2009
Time: 09:14 AM


My Mom was much older than your wife, but I went to the ALF every holiday and took gifts and many photos, as well as nibbles for the nursing staff. You must be upbeat for your sake and your wife's sake. Your kids are not interested and that is sad, but this is for you and your wife. God bless you both - you can do it! then spend the rest of the day with caring friends.

Date: 12/16/2009
Time: 09:35 AM


Whether at home or in the nursing home, remember your wedding vows.."in sickness and in health"..and "til death do us part" I elected to keep my wife at home and did so for six years. Prayer will see you through your ordeal.

Name: Nancy
Location: Roseburg, Oregon
Date: 12/16/2009
Time: 11:02 AM


As a caregiver for my mother for over 10 years, one of the greatest challenges came when I had to place her in a nursing facility because I could no longer provide her with the care she needed. The guilt I felt was almost overwhelming, and I was heartbroken to have to release her to the care of strangers--although the facility was quite close to my work place, and I could visit her frequently. I found I had to tell myself that I was doing the very best I knew, to ensure that she received the care she needed. Also, participating in a "Family Caregiver Support Group" was an incredible help to me! The members of that Group were supportive and sympathetic,and very wise; they truly understood was I was going through, and were a great help! I think it is very important that you are not alone during this time! If you were to contact the Senior Services agency in your area, they could provide you with information on such support groups. Although some people may initially be reluctant to join such a group,(and, men attend these groups, as well as women), I encourage you to do--the result can be incredibly helpful! The State within which I live also provides a class for family caregivers called "The Powerful Tools for Caregivers," which helps caregivers deal with emotions (guilt, anger, frustration, fear), as well as many other important caregiving issues; it is a wonderful class!

Name: swagner
Location: miami, fl
Date: 12/16/2009
Time: 12:31 PM


Some updates to my earlier comments--always carry a "throwaway" camera with you-I took many fotos of Mom and/or the staff and gave them copies, which they liked a lot. Also stay for the holiday show or party at the facility and join in, and go for EVERY holiday, even Halloween, etc.! and THEN meet up with your friends!

Name: Jim
Location: Maryland
Date: 12/16/2009
Time: 10:46 PM


I agree with most of the thoughts and ideas expressed by the group. My wife is 63 also. I took care of her at home for five years before she had to go into a nursing home. Three weeks later, I had a heart attack. You cannot do it 24/7/365 forever. That day comes when either she goes or you go. We were lucky. And although it may not seem like it today, so are both of you. There are some additional things I would like to add. Bear with me, this could get a little long but I sense your need for a caregiver group that you may not have found yet. They are usually good at this. You have a minimum of three things you are facing. One, you are a spouse. Two, you are a male spouse. Three, you are a caregiver who has lost the stimulus of having the situation that controls your life at home to provide you with the routine of chores and requirements that go with the TYPE of care giving you have been doing and fitting it all in for the usual Christmas preparations you have done for many years. You are alone at home now. I am on my third Christmas since my wife entered a nursing home and she will not be here for Christmas but this is now normal for me. Depending on when your wife went into the nursing home will influence some of what you have to deal with. The worst situation is if she just went in within the last 30 to 60 days. Why? You are still adjusting to the absence of her presence at home to interact with and that stimulus of having to keep it all going. You are not needed for the old routine at home now. You ARE still needed to keep her going at the home and when you keep her going you will keep yourself going. You must be upbeat for your wife, as Ms. Wagner says. I had to get help with the guilt, grief and other problems that went into the need for going into a nursing home and the usual things we all go through when this occurs. As I said, your circumstances that lead to the need to enter a nursing home determine the kinds of issues you will have to deal with and the scope of them. Most of all, you need support for THIS Christmas and I donít know how involved you are with your church but it sure helps if you have that support however small or large it is. I was lucky in another way. I have two grand children and two children who do care about me. If you do not have a God, get one. You need someone to talk to when things go wrong and thank when things go well. Prayer takes many forms so donít get hung up on semantics. Just ask for help and you will get it. I have about 100 things that I could tell you that were in place either when my wife had two massive hemorrhagic strokes in 2002 or came into place after the strokes occurred that I did not know we needed but appeared almost the moment they were needed. As they say, there are no atheists in foxholes. God bless and find a support group as soon as you can. One might be having a meeting close by between now and Christmas that could help you immensely. I know when I go to bed every night that I will have someone to talk to or just thank and then if I am too tired or confused or sad, sleep will soon come. In my case, I have medications to help with my anxiety, guilt and grief. You will learn allot about your health as this change occurs in your life because you have been neglecting yourself. Trust me, Iíve been there. I hope this helps a little. Merry Christmas. Jim in Maryland

Name: Lindy
Location: Wisconsin
Date: 12/17/2009
Time: 10:33 AM


I facilitate a support group for cargivers and I couldn't agree more with Nancy from Oregon. Attending sessions will provide you with moral support and ideas on how to cope with your feelings. Try to attend as many activities at the nursing home with your wife as you can. During Christmas, bring a healthy snack or treat that can be shared with other residents. In my community, local businesses sponsor a dinner and the Knight of Columbus hall for those spending the holidays alone or who financially cannot afford a big Christmas dinner. Check with your Area on Aging or Aging and Disability Resource Center if they are aware of such a dinner. Lastly, volunteer to serve at the dinner or any other community service that will give you the opportunity to be out doing something during the holidays. Be sure to spend time with your friends too, even if it means hosting the get-together. G

Name: Jane Mades
Location: Wellington fl.
Date: 12/17/2009
Time: 09:09 PM


You are, of course, not the only one feeling this way. Children with heads in the sand? Prehaps you could start there....This is truly the worst time of year for all of us who are in this situation. I suggest you go find an organization that will allow you to do something that you have never done, physically I mean. Get to a soup kitchen, food bank, whatever and do something physical be it delivering gifts that will tear your heart out or serving dinner to families who couldn't or lets face, it wouldn't do it for themselves. Above all feel no guilt, you are doing the best that you can for your beloved wife, 63 is awfully young for this nonsense but that is the serving you have on your respective plates.No one knows what your pain and grief are like except you. May the children swallow the sand and come to you for water,but if not, remember all in "it's good time". Truck on my friend, I care. Jane


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