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Monday, August 6, 2012

A Day in The Life of a Caregiver

The other day, someone asked me "Do you work?" It was all I could do to stop myself from laughing out loud. And it's not the first time someone has asked me that question.

Awhile back, someone else, knowing I am my husband's caregiver, innocently asked me, "What DO you do all day?"

So for the curious and/or the clueless, I thought I'd just write down a typical schedule, a day in my life as a caregiver. Here it is:

6-6:30 a.m.   

Wake up. Look at the clock. Try to compose myself for a new day. Get up. Get dressed.

6:30-7:00 a.m.       

Empty and rinse out the overnight urinal. Disconnect Bob's overnight feeding pump. Clean feeding tube with cannula brush. Flush tube with water. Crush morning medications and dissolve in water. Syringe into Bob's feeding tube. Flush with water. Change Bob's bedpad, boost him up in the bed, give him topical medication for his mouth. Feed the cats.

7:00-7:45 a.m. 

Walk the dog.

7:45-8:15 a.m.

Feed the dog. Boost Bob in bed. Sit down with Bob and tell him the day's agenda so he is prepared for it. Set Bob up with drawing pad and pencils. Take a bath.

8:30-9:00 a.m.

Breakfast for me.

9:00-10:15 a.m. 

Do dishes, clean kitchen, take out garbage, do any other household chores as needed, pay bills, schedule wheelchair transport rides, do any paperwork necessary, order medical supplies, order prescription refills and/or blog (if time!), check e-mail etc. On Saturdays, count and set up a week's worth of pills in Bob's "pill minder" boxes. 

10:15-10:30 a.m.

Eat lunch now. There will be no time later on!

10:30-11:30 a.m

Fold yesterday's laundry. Gather all supplies for Bob's bedbath and haul a tub of water into his room. Do a complete bedbath starting with his fingers and ending with his toes. (I wash, Bob dries what he can reach.) Apply 3 different topical medications and four different lotions. Clean belly opening of feeding tube and apply new gauze dressing. Help him get dressed except for t-shirt. Take off wheelchair arm and push in footrests. Pull wheelchair to bed. Help Bob transfer into the wheelchair. Flip back footrests and wait for him to get his feet positioned. Put arm back on wheelchair. Pull wheelchair diagonally to the bed.

11:30-11:40 a.m.

Tip wheelchair back onto bed. Do neck stretching exercises by holding Bob's head and gently moving his neck and applying "traction". Ten reps each of "chin to chest and up", "ear to shoulder" and "look left and right".  Then do 10 reps each isometric neck exercises, with Bob pushing his head back against my hand

11:40-12:30 p.m.

Push Bob's wheelchair into kitchen. Set up sink to wash his hair with rubber hose etc. Tip wheelchair back against the sink. Wash hair. Rinse hair. Set wheelchair back on floor. Hand Bob fresh towel to to dry off. Clean sink and put away hair washing supplies. Strip sheets on Bob's bed. Haul laundry into laundry room. Start up new load in the washer. Make bed with fresh sheet, drawsheets, bedpads. Comb Bob's hair and secure into ponytail. Give Bob his t-shirt, watch him struggle to get it on, help if needed. Push wheelchair out to front porch so Bob can get some fresh air.  Sit with him for a few minutes. Take a deep breath.

12:30-1:00 p.m.

Pull wheelchair backwards into house. Take off wheelchair arm. Flip in foot rests. Push wheelchair to side of bed. Get out slideboard and help Bob transfer back into bed, boost him up with drawsheet, move table back to side of the bed, adjust pillows, put wheelchair back together, then go to kitchen. Crush medications, dissolve in water. Check syringes to make sure they are working correctly. Syringe medications into Bob's feeding tube. Flush with water.

1:00-2:00 p.m.

Bob's PT exercises.
My job here is to keep count of the number of reps of those exercises he can do on his own and to manually help him with the ones he cannot do on his own. 10 different exercises.
Get Bob sitting at edge of bed. Four different trunk exercises, he needs help with all of these. Throw wash into the dryer.

2:00-2:30 p.m.

Boost Bob up to the top of the bed so that his head is hanging off the top for more neck stretching exercises plus position him for about 15 minutes of spine alignment and gentle traction. (Go check my e-mail etc. while he relaxes in the spine alignment position.)

Somewhere between
12:00-4:00 p.m.

Watch Bob try to pee! Then empty and rinse urinal when he's successful. Get frustrated when he takes way tooooo long and throws the schedule off... go check my e-mail etc. while I wait... aaargh.

3:00-4:00 p.m.

Take off wheelchair arm and take off footrests. Push to side of bed. Help Bob transfer into wheelchair and put wheelchair arm back on. Put Bob's shoes on. Put on his knee brace. Put on his fingerless left hand glove. Secure elbow pad. Put on gait belt. Push wheelchair into hallway for walking practice. Assist Bob with at least 15 walks on the rail, then as many "dance steps" for weight shifting as he can.

4:00-4:30 p.m.

Push wheelchair back into the living room. Take off Bob's shoes. Take off knee brace. Take off gait belt, glove and elbow pad. Take off wheelchair arm. Push wheelchair to side of bed, get out slideboard, help Bob transfer back into bed. Boost him up to the top with drawsheet. Adjust hospital bed rails and pull back bedside table, adjust pillows, help Bob undress and change into night clothes. Put wheelchair back together. Take the dog out to pee.

4:30-6:30 p.m.

Supper for me. Feed the dog. Serve Bob pudding and make sure he gets it all down.
Watch a movie.
(Best time of the day!)

6:30-7:15 p.m.

Crush and dissolve night medications. Syringe into feeding tube. Flush with water. Set up and connect night feeding pump. Take dog out, one last time.

7:15-9:00 p.m.

Finish watching movie. Get Bob ready for sleep, i.e. fetch night urinal, tuck him in.
Fall asleep, if I can or go play online Scrabble until I'm sleepy.

Somewhere between midnight and 6:00 a.m.
Climb out of bed and change diapers. Haul trash bag filled with dirty diapers and disposable bed wipes out to the garbage can. Do a midnight load of wash, if necessary.

After that,
fall back asleep.

So there you have it, a typical day in my life. And people ask if I work....


Rebecca Dutton said...

People should know what you go through so I've added this post to the list of my Favorite Links on my blog. It's mind blowing.

Anonymous said...

Let’s see I saw
Certif. nursing assistant
physical Therapist
domestic engineer,
social worker,
personal assistant
and all w/o leaving home....
People can be so have a huge resume!!!!

Anonymous said...

And then add those "extra's" like grocery shopping, doctor visits & and the preps for same, vet visits, car maint., the unexpected soiled sheets/clothes, as well as your own health from day to day.

Your daily caregiving WORK puts mine to shame. I don't know how you do it.

Hugs & admiration, Dan

barbpolan said...

I hope the movies make you laugh. Ran into a joke the other day ... whoever says laughter is the best medicine hasn't had morphine.

Anonymous said...

ah Diane caregiving is not for the faint of heart eh? I had a friend tell me the other day that I'm too young to be a full-time caregiver. What the heck does that mean? Not sure. People forget to check themselves before they spew forth.
Take Care and will chat soon.