Joan C. Clay -My Story – February 2003
About 10 years ago, my life took a twist that was completely unexpected and life changing. I became caregiver to my husband, then my brother, and now my mother. I came into this experience kicking and screaming at the injustice of it all and feeling very sorry for myself, but I was to gain so much knowledge and information about myself and others, that I have settled down and become at home in acceptance of what “is” in all aspects of my life. There is so much more to learn and that excites me.
My husband, Cliff, began his adventure with Alzheimer’s slowly and almost imperceptibly to all but those who were very close. This made things more difficult for the family as we tried to comprehend his slightly off behavior. However, as physical difficulties increased and surgeries with Anesthesia revealed more mental dysfunction, we accepted the fact of Alzheimer’s. After a short bout with cancer,(78 yr.) more surgery, and heart attack, he died and went to be with the Savior he loved.
A year before Cliff died, my 89-year-old mother, Ethel, came to live with us. At 95 she is still sharing my home. Her health is quite good, but arthritis has caused her much pain and limited movement and small strokes, along with age have limited her mentally. She can dress herself and bathe herself, but I take care of all her other needs.
Two years ago, my brother moved to our area with the thought of helping to care for mother. However, shortly after arriving, he had a stroke and was hospitalized most of the following summer. He also is a diabetic, manic-depressive, and is now dealing with dialysis. Since beginning the dialysis and encountering some other mental challenges, it all became too much for me to handle and he is now living with his son and family (3 teen-agers) in another state. While living nearby to me, he never lived with me, but was hospitalized so often and had so many physical problems that I was tested to the limit to keep up. I was the closest available family so it all fell on me.
At the present time, it’s just mom and me with a little help now and then from my children and their children. Young people are very involved in their own lives and are available when called upon, but do little thinking on their own.
For the most part I keep a positive attitude, but there are times, when the lack of freedom hits hard and I start to go under. However, my family, my church, and my friends help keep me focused. But my main source of strength comes from my Lord and I have grown much in my relationship with Him over the past 10-12 years as He has become more and more my only source of comfort. And that is a very positive thing.
My fears and concerns are that as I grow older (70 yr.) I will not have the strength or ability to carry on. The strain gets to me and I would appreciate some kind of respite. So far, I have not investigated this thoroughly, but I intend to do that soon. I’ve heard this is very costly and if I plan a trip, that would also be costly, so I do feel “stuck.” One of the major fears is that when I finally have my freedom, I will be too old to enjoy it. That’s one fear I have to stuff, because I don’t know what to do with it or where to go with it other than to take one day at a time and trust that the Lord will see me through.
I know this is too long but that’s my story in as small a nutshell as I could get it. You all can probably condense it lots more.