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Archive for January, 2014

Life after Clara…


All the times I had thought how much easier life would be once Clara was gone, but I never went beyond that thought.  What would I do once she was gone?  I did not realize how difficult the transition would be.  One of the most surprising side effects of Clara’s death was the recurring dreams I would have.  They were actually nightmares, because each dream would be about Clara falling and me trying to get her help.  When I would tell some of my friends about my recurring nightmares I would always be told the same thing, ‘You have no reason to feel guilty, you took excellent care of Clara.’  I don’t think guilt was the problem.  It wasn’t about the blame game.  The day Clara fell getting out of the shower, I felt was a combination of bad circumstances and honestly, the responsibility fell on her.  Once she made up her mind she was falling, despite my pleas not to, and released her body weight, she became like dead weight.  Even though Andy and Zack were home and are quite strong, I don’t think they would have even been able to hold her up if they were in my position.  For me I think it was more about all the things I had done, all the sacrifices I had made, all the times I injured my own body in my effort to help Clara-all seemed to be defined by the end.  Clara fell on my watch, plain and simple.  I don’t believe it was guilt, but sheer disappointment at my defeat at the end.  There was also overwhelming aggravation and anger at Clara’s doctor for ignoring my concerns the weeks prior to her death.  I felt the care I was trying to get her was blocked by the very person that was supposed to provide it.  No matter what the cause, the dreams were there, every night.  For almost two months I had a different dream but the theme was the same, Clara fell and I was urgently trying to get her help.  Once I would wake up from my dream, usually after about three hours of sleep, I was too anxious to fall back to sleep.  In part I did not want to take a chance of the dream continuing.  It would be crazy dreams sometimes based on actual events that had happened.  One night I dreamed about helping Clara down the steps of a friend’s house we were visiting.  Many years before, I had helped Clara down the steps of this friend’s house, without incident.  In my dream however, Clara fell down the final step.  For some reason my car was not available or would not work.  I placed her on a dolly, the kind that I’ve seen people use to stack up boxes on to transport.  Dreams are not based on logic; at least mine never are, so for some reason I had a dolly available.  I strapped Clara to this dolly; she is standing upright with bungee cords holding her on.  I am behind her trying to run her home to our house.  For several miles I was successful in keeping a fast pace then the wheels would fall off of the dolly.  I stood there with complete anxiety wondering how I was going to get Clara the help she needed.  I would wake up and my heart would be pounding.  I’m not so dense that I could not see the correlation.  The night Clara fell getting out of the shower, I was so close to successfully getting her out of the shower, and when I felt we were just about in home stretch, the fall.  Then there was the frantic cry for help, then Andy being put on hold with 911, then the hospital being backed up.  I would lie in bed logically trying to reason things out, but I was still too scared to go back to sleep.  One night, I talked to a very good friend of mine, who had become a caregiver at the end of his wife’s battle with leukemia.  He understood the dreams, the feeling of panic that you forgot to do something important, he said for me to give it time, it would resolve.  After almost sixty days of this, I needed sleep.  I went to my primary physician and explained my dilemma.  She prescribed a sleep aid for ten days to break the vicious cycle I was in.  I was so looking forward to getting peaceful sleep.  The first night I took the sleep aid I did not have any dreams, none that I remember anyway.  I slept for five hours, a bit short of the eight hours I thought I would get, but still far better than the three I had been getting.  For ten straight days I would sleep dream free, but only for five hours.  The first night off the medication I could not sleep at all.  I called for another round.  After really reading the information flier that came with the sleep aid, it explained that once you went off the medicine, you may experience insomnia for a couple of nights.  I figured I was just postponing the inevitable so decided not to take anymore.  The good news was the dreams did not return.  The bad news was I was back to getting about three hours of sleep a night.  Within days I was starting to get a bit more sleep, but have not slept a complete night since.

My entire account is available at http://www.createspace.com/3469034 or at Amazon.com, just type in the title of my book, LIFE WITH CLARA – ONE CAREGIVER’S JOURNEY.  I appreciate all of your comments and wish all caregivers the strength they need to cope each day!  

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My brother Jim actually delivered the funeral talk and was able to include some of his own personal experiences that he had in visiting Clara in the past, and during her last hospital stay.  During the funeral talk, at times it looked like Clara was breathing, her chest rising up and down.  I had to convince myself that my eyes were playing tricks on me.  The talk was finished, and the funeral director instructed the family members to pay their last respects.  As Andy walked out, he burst into tears and cried loudly.  Of course I was at his side trying to support him.  A co-worker of his was standing in the hallway, and he stepped toward Andy to hug him and Andy embraced him tightly.  It was sad to see him so broken.  What was going through my mind?  I was wondering if I looked heartless because I was not crying.  I was trying to think what was expected or acceptable behavior from me.  Should I cry too?  Would that help Andy or make it about me needing comfort from him?  As we walked down the steps to the family vehicle arranged by the funeral home, the pressure was over.  Once out of the funeral home and into the vehicle, Clara’s children were pulling themselves together.  It was nice sitting there so we could observe all of our friends as they were coming out of the funeral home, some of which we did not notice while inside.  After the cemetery, we went back to my mother’s house for a meal.  As the day came to a close, one of Clara’s daughter’s hugged me and thanked me for everything.  I was not sure if that was everything related to the funeral or everything related to the care I provided.  At that point, it was the first thank you I had ever received from her, so I decided to take it as a thank you for everything.  My entire account is available at http://www.createspace.com/3469034 or at Amazon.com, just type in the title of my book, LIFE WITH CLARA – ONE CAREGIVER’S JOURNEY.  I appreciate all of your comments and wish all caregivers the strength they need to cope each day!  

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