Caregivers caring for themselves: Jackie takes “me time” and reaches out to her community

Jackie with Micah, aBishon Frizee therapy dog

My husband, Bill, and I live in the Asheville area of the Blue Ridge Mountains of Western North Carolina. We loved hiking in them, the Great Smokey Mountains, and in and out of the USA until a golf cart accident, the result of his Vascular Dementia. I enjoy photographing the many fine examples of the flora and fauna in our mountains. This includes pesky bears that visit our deck, snakes on the trails and in our yard, gorgeous wild flowers found only in the Carolinas, and much more. We are a blessing to each other!

SANCTUARY: At one point, all I had was time between 10:30 PM and Midnight. My husband snores and it was interrupting my sleep, so I moved to a guest bedroom where I have been for months now. It is my sanctuary. If problems should develop as his Vascular Dementia progresses and I would need to know he is OK during the night, I will get a baby monitor and can at least turn it down to a lower decibel.

A sunset from Jackie’s deck

DRIVER: After months of often spending 6 to 9 hours a day away from home driving him and/or me to appointments, him to and from Adult Day Care (25 miles RT twice a day), countless errands, and even lunches or dinners out (which he always wants to do), I needed help. I believed it more important to spend the money on having him driven instead of me becoming ill, which I did become. I developed Double Pneumonia this past July and was in the hospital for three days. That is when I realized what everyone had been telling me since my husband was first diagnosed: I had to take care of myself. I had exhausted all my reserves and was not able to fight off this illness. Since then, with him being driven to and from his twice-weekly Adult Day Care, I have had from 9:30 AM to 5 PM those two days to stay home, have lunch with a friend or on my own, or run errands without worrying about my husband. It is liberting for me, I am more relaxed, and he is happy there with a weekly trip, entertainment, playing his favorite daily games.

RESPITE CARE: I have not yet done this, but there is available in our area places you can take a spouse for respite care. They are safe and well taken care of and, while they may not like it at first, the caregivers who have used this say their spouse has adjusted and sometimes even looks forward to going again. The important thing is it has given a weekend or longer for them to get a needed break.

An alternative is to have a family member or friend watch your spouse, which I have done. One important step I took over a year ago was having my husband and two of his male friends get lunch together monthly. Even though I must drive him, it gives me time for lunch out on my own or with a friend and he enjoys it.

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