I am a pretty positive person in general. I try to find the silver lining, the meaning or the humor in almost anything that happens, but I have to tell you, this pandemic has really beaten me down.
As a caregiver I’ve been used to being in one place at one time, for a long period of time. I’ve been used to trying to organize and figure out how to get things done outside of the house that didn’t involve me leaving the house, or using my time out of the house to the best of my ability. Believe me, nobody can get in and out of more stores in a 2 or 3 hour block than I do.
But with this pandemic, I don’t see a positive. The idea of having someone come in so I can go out leaves me with nothing but anxiety. Will they bring the virus in? Am I putting my family in jeopardy? Will my mother get sick? What will happen if I get sick? Who’s going to take care of my mother? The unknown range with the outcome of this virus being “you’ll either be fine or you’ll be dead” does not bring me comfort.
In the past, I would put a mask and gloves on and go into her room. That isn’t an option if I have this virus. That’s 14 days of quarantine - who would take care of my mother then???
I worry for my children going to school and not going to school. My oldest is in her off campus housing and is going to school which means when she comes home she doesn’t see my mother because she doesn’t live under this roof and I can’t risk her bringing something in to her grandmother. My youngest is starting her college career online, just like she ended her senior year in high school and I worry how that will affect her.
The things that used to work for me that brought me some oxygen, no longer work. Having a cup of coffee in the morning was my favorite thing, to sit on the deck and look at the trees, before my day started, or after my day started, or in the middle of my day, but that doesn’t hold the same feeling for me now. Listening to music, an old reliable, doesn’t help me either.
I haven’t been sleeping well either during this time, because my mother’s condition has declined. Of course, that is to be expected, it is the nature of the disease, but knowing that doesn't make it any easier. She can be up through the night, many times or none at all, every night is different. I have a sensor mat next to her bed to alert me when she gets up which has sufficiently given me PTSD. When I lay down to go to sleep, the fear of being awakened to that sound keeps my body on high alert. I never fully rest.
Sitting here watching the world go on, watching people behave as if there is no virus because for them it doesn’t matter, and yet for me it has changed my entire world, is infuriating. We cancelled our family vacation. The one time in the year that we can sit together and be a family, start and finish a conversation, hang out with each other, BE with each other, we lost. It’s hard not to be resentful of that.
My mother, God love her, asks me everyday when she wakes up, “is it better??” Because as charming as I am, I’m sure she wants to see other people. And here we sit, and we watch, and we wait. It is Groundhog Day on steroids.
I have had a caregiver come in a few times so I could get to my yearly doctor appointments and a few specialty appointments which gave me some much needed oxygen. At the end of this month I will be finished with my yearly appointments and then I will be here. Preparing to hunker down, again, for the addition of flu season. Another virus that makes me wonder if I contract it, who will care for my mother?
I know I am not alone in this. I have spoken to many caregivers who feel the same way and have read the reports that have seen an increase in caregiver depression rise from 3% to 30% during this pandemic. How could it not??
What happens going forward? I don’t know. I am going to try to find that silver lining though, it has to be there somewhere.