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Archive for October, 2012

Clara and Carly, continued…


(Sorry for my late posting.  Hurricane Sandy!  We made out quite well, especially when seeing what our poor NJ and NY neighbors are dealing with.  For all there, especially caregivers, you are in our thoughts).

When we would go out, after taking care of Clara, I would have to try to coax Carly into the crate.  If I laid on the floor next to the crate, she would settle down but as soon as I would walk away she would become hysterical.  When we would return home, we would have a mess.  Carly would poop in her crate, something we were told dogs never did.  Then in her hysterics to escape she would step in it and pieces of poop would be flung all over the crate, through the grates of the crate and on her.  She was so hyper and relieved that we returned home, it was difficult to calm her down.  Any poop in her paws would be tracked on the carpet.  Once we opened the crate door, one of us would take her up to the tub to give her a bath, another one would take the crate outside to hose it out, one would clean up the area around the crate and paw prints, and one of us would go over and check on Clara.  It got to the point that we tried to schedule our lives so someone was always home, which was not possible.  Since Clara would often be home when we went out in the evening, I asked if the puppy could stay over with her in her apartment and she said no.  She was worried if she had to get up to go to the bathroom she would trip over the dog.  I could understand her fear of falling, but was frustrated that she could not do this one thing to help us out since the dog would always move out of her way when she was up.

I was Clara’s full time caregiver for 8 years.  I mentioned earlier in this blog that I am posting exerpts from my book, Life with Clara – One Caregiver’s Journey.  My goal has always been that my experience and honesty could help others in this life changing role.  My entire account is available at www.createspace.com/3469034

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Hurricane Sandy heading my way…


I live in the Mid-Atlantic area, and according to all reports, we are going to be greatly impacted by Hurricane Sandy.  We are told to expect widespread power outages, with the possibility of several days before power can be restored.  After it is all over, I will be adding a new post.  Thank you to all of my readers, and I hope you are all safe.  I’m shutting down my computer now…

I was Clara’s full time caregiver for 8 years. I mentioned earlier in this blog that I am posting exerpts from my book, Life with Clara – One Caregiver’s Journey. My goal has always been that my experience and honesty could help others in this life changing role. My entire account is available at http://www.createspace.com/3469034

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Clara and Carly


My boys always wanted a dog.  I had a dog growing up and loved him, but it was easy since all the responsibility fell on my mother.  I could remember sometimes it was hard for my mother to find someone to care for the dog when we went on vacation.  Every couple of years, the subject of getting a dog would come up and I always stood firm against it.  With the boys getting older, my husband was weakening in his resolve to stand firm on our refusal to get a dog.  The boys picked up on that, and knowing he was the weak link, would talk about their desire to get a dog when I wasn’t around.  Mike really wanted a Doberman, and Andy had seen a picture of a red Doberman and thought it was pretty.  One day Andy brought home a magazine on Doberman’s and I reminded him how difficult it was to get someone to care for his mother when we went on vacation, I didn’t want to have to add finding someone to take care of a dog on top of it.  Andy told Mike and Zack my reply.  That was all the ammunition Mike needed, the son we would call, ‘Attorney Mike’ for his relentless techniques in badgering you until he got what he wanted.  Mike played on my guilt, the guilt I felt because of the time I had to devote to caring for Clara that used to be devoted to them.  I knew what he was doing, but it still made me feel bad.  Then he waited a couple of days and came back and said now that he was getting older he wasn’t home as much, which meant Zack often came home from school to an empty house if I was out involved in Clara’s appointments.  He argued what a difference a dog would make, a companion for Zack when I had to take care of their grandmother.  I knew he was playing me, but guilt is a terrible motivator, and I agreed we could get a dog.  I knew the promises they made of doing all the work were worthless, that it would fall on me.  I did worry that Zack felt lonely or neglected at times because of the time I spent with Clara and the thought of getting a dog made me feel a bit less guilty.  Before long we were driving home with a crying nine week old red Doberman that the boys named Carly.  I held her like a baby in my arms trying to soothe her, wondering what had I done agreeing to this!  Once word got out that we were getting a dog, some friends gave us some helpful advice on crate training and other techniques on having a puppy.  We thought we were all ready, but were ill prepared for this puppy.  Clara had some fond memories of dogs she had in the past as pets, and seemed to bond with our new puppy quickly.  Carly did not like the crate, and rather than feeling secure in it as we were told she would, she would go in full panic.  To be continued…

I was Clara’s full time caregiver for 8 years.  I mentioned earlier in this blog that I am posting exerpts from my book, Life with Clara – One Caregiver’s Journey.  My goal has always been that my experience and honesty could help others in this life changing role.  My entire account is available at www.createspace.com/3469034

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What would I do without MY Mom???


My mother, cleverly trying to think of a way around me to help out, offered to take Clara out to lunch on Thursday.  Clara enjoyed it so much that my mother would invite other friends to join them the following week.  Clara came home in the best of moods, and on those days she would not need me to make her lunch, worry about her in the afternoon, and for dinner she would want a danish and a cup of hot tea.  How easy was that?!  Even one of her daughter’s noticed how happy this made Clara, so my mother agreed to take Clara out every Thursday for lunch.  Some times I felt guilty that my mother was doing my job, but she reasoned with me that it wasn’t my job, I was just the one doing it and she was glad to help.  I had another break that I was happy for.

I was Clara’s full time caregiver for 8 years.  I mentioned earlier in this blog that I am posting exerpts from my book, Life with Clara – One Caregiver’s Journey.  My goal has always been that my experience and honesty could help others in this life changing role.  My entire account is available at www.createspace.com/3469034

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Pity party extraordinaire!


Each year my husband takes our sons and my brothers on a ‘guys only’ ski trip, and that was fast approaching.  We asked Mike’s doctor if he could go to hang out with the guys, and the doctor said he had to be careful even playing cards, not to use that shoulder at all.  I was nervous for Mike to leave but looking forward to the break.  He was weaning himself off of the pain medication, and starting to do more for himself.  I knew he would never expect the guys to do for him what he expected from me.  I guess the lack of sleep for three weeks took its toll on me, and I became sick.  My husband offered to stay behind, but I shooed him and my two sons out the door.  By now I was running a temperature averaging 102, and just wanted to stay in bed.  Unfortunately, this weekend Clara’s daughter was also away.  Whether or not I wanted to take care of Clara, it still had to be done.  I would set my alarm to wake me up when it was time to care for Clara, go back to bed and set my alarm for the next time.  Each time the alarm would go off I would feel sorry for myself that I had the burden of taking care of Clara.  I was angry that every one else could go off when they wanted, but I was always left holding the bag of responsibility, and it wasn’t even my mother.  In my mind that weekend, I was practically a martyr.  Each time I went over to Clara’s it was with an attitude.  When my husband would call home to check on me, I was sure to tell him just how rotten I felt.  He felt bad that I was sick and still had to still take care of his mother.  Good, that’s how I wanted him to feel.  Yes, being sick made me really ugly!  My mother would call to try to help, and being the martyr I would not allow it.  It would make me so mad that my family was the one always offering to help me care for Clara, and not Clara’s family.  I thought of all the times I had to take Clara to Johns Hopkins Hospital to see one specialist or another.  They were such long days.  Just getting her there was eventful.  I would pull up to the entrance, help Clara out of the car, find a place to leave her propped up, run back to my car, go to the parking lot, then hurry back to where I left Clara, hoping she was still vertical.  Then we would enter Johns Hopkins and hope Clara could make the long walk to the area she needed to be seen.  Eventually I discovered the valet service at the hospital and took advantage of that.  It made it so much easier pulling up to the curb, getting Clara out and not having to worry about the car.  By now we had a wheelchair for Clara which helped quite a bit.  I thought of all the surgical procedures she had done that mostly fell on me.  Sometimes Andy would leave work and check in for a bit, but then leave to go back to work.  Clara’s daughter would come and do the same.  One time after a surgical procedure they both came and left.  In recovery Clara ran into complications, and there was talk of admitting her overnight.  I was left there alone to deal with this crisis, and Clara was quite distraught.  It ended up that Clara stabilized enough to be discharged and by now it was the height of rush hour traffic and it was snowing hard.  Clara was given pain medicine to hold her over until she got home.  They could not give her too much, or she would have been unable to walk once we got home.  Now we were stuck in terrible traffic, moving only three city blocks in twenty-five minutes and I’m panicking that Clara’s medicine was going to run out and she would be suffering and there was nothing I could do about it.  The responsibility I would feel for Clara would become overwhelming, but it had to be done.  By the time we got home, there were several inches of snow on the ground, Clara was quite weak and in pain.  Although Andy is quite particular about the care of our yard, when I got home I drove the car across the front yard to Clara’s door.  Mike and Zack came out and helped their Grandmom inside.  Even my grown sons had a struggle to get her inside and I thought, ‘What if they were not home, what would I have done?’  I prayed that I could get the car back to the driveway without getting stuck.  Inside I thought I dared for Andy to say something to me about driving over his lawn.  To me desperate times, desperate measures!  It was snowing so hard, that in no time my tire tracts were filling in.  That feeling of being in this with Clara all alone, despite the fact that she had her own children was a source of sadness and frustration for me.  Of course, those feelings were exaggerated in that I did not have to do one hundred percent of everything myself without ever receiving help, but often I was left holding the bag of care for Clara.  It just seemed to be expected, and seldom appreciated.  That would create emotional turmoil for me, fighting feelings of resentment towards her own children.  The ski weekend brought those feelings to the surface again.  As I laid in bed feeling horrible, those were some of the memories that came flooding back.  Although Clara would express concern for me, she still wanted her hot tea on schedule, to go to bed when she wanted, etc.  The weekend came to an end, the guys returned, I was feeling a bit better, and Mike no longer required extra assistance from me.

I was Clara’s full time caregiver for 8 years.  I mentioned earlier in this blog that I am posting exerpts from my book, Life with Clara – One Caregiver’s Journey.  My goal has always been that my experience and honesty could help others in this life changing role.  My entire account is available at www.createspace.com/3469034

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Will the injuries ever end in my family?


Less than nine months after Mike broke both of his wrists, he sustained a serious shoulder injury while playing football.  At first, the emergency room doctor thought he had dislocated his shoulder.  After looking at the x-rays, he realized it was much more serious than that, and surgery would be required.  It was a holiday weekend, and Mike was sent home with pain meds until we could follow up with an orthopedic surgeon.  I found someone that specialized in the shoulder, and again was able to get an appointment that worked with Clara’s dialysis schedule.  We learned that Mike needed major surgery and would have up to a six month recovery time.  His right shoulder injury prevented him from having use of that arm before surgery, and of course Mike is right handed.  Insurance red tape prevented the surgery for ten days.  We had been sent home with pain medication for Mike to take every four hours.  The doctor said this was a painful injury and to give him the medicine every four hours before the pain got bad, and to be sure to take the medication with food.  Of course, Clara still wanted everything done for her exactly on the schedule she liked, no flexibility there.  So at 2 a.m., Mike’s scheduled pain medicine time, I would ask Mike if he just wanted some crackers to take with his medicine.  He really wanted mashed potatoes with gravy.  Granted, he would accept instant mashed potatoes and jarred gravy warmed up, but even that seemed like too much effort in the middle of the night.  After taking his pain meds, he would be back to sleep, but as the four hours were coming to an end, I could hear him groaning in his sleep in pain.  At 6 a.m. he would be asking for Oodles of Noodles, and as he fell back to sleep, I would be back up at 8 a.m. to start my day with Clara.  At 11:00 p.m. after Clara was put to bed my sink would be empty, by morning it was filled with pans, dishes and glasses.

The day of Mike’s surgery fortunately fell on a non-dialysis day.  I made arrangements with my mother and Maria to help care for Clara.  After surgery Mike ran into complications, and we were at the hospital much longer than anticipated.  He really needed to be admitted but our health insurance would not allow it.  I was so glad Zack was home to put his grandmother to bed so I didn’t have to try to figure that out.  Andy and I did not get home until after midnight and Mike was in an incredible amount of pain.  We had two sofas in our family room, Mike slept on one, and I slept on the other to care for him.  I continued getting up every four hours to give Mike something to eat so he could take his pain meds.  I could not get much rest even when Mike was sleeping because I could hear him moaning in his sleep.  Zack was old enough to get up and ready for school on his own, but there was still Clara, there just never seemed to be a break from Clara.  It seemed to me that her daughters never volunteered to do any more than their one day a week.  That day getting Clara to dialysis seemed like it required the last little bit of energy I had left.  The first week after Mike’s surgery was the worst, and I was still on his bath detail.

I was Clara’s full time caregiver for 8 years.  I mentioned earlier in this blog that I am posting exerpts from my book, Life with Clara – One Caregiver’s Journey.  My goal has always been that my experience and honesty could help others in this life changing role.  My entire account is available at www.createspace.com/3469034

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