Sunday, October 27, 2019

The Caregiving Snowball

It’s hard to tell when you’re in what I call the caregiving snowball.

Here’s how it works: you have survived the beginning of caregiving where everything is whirlwind: doctors’ appointments, diagnoses, documents to create, decisions to make but then things get pretty steady. Things are certainly not easy but steady enough to establish routines with only occasional hospitalizations or emergencies.  The length of this period is as varied as there are caregiving situations.  Some skip it altogether and go straight to the snowball. 

The crew happy to be home
The snowball is when things get crazy. 

There are possibly several falls, repeated illnesses and multiple hospitalizations or stays in a Skilled Nursing Facility. The rebounding isn’t quite like it used to be. It takes longer to recover from pneumonia or a fall.

The days of routine look pretty good right about now. 

Sometimes I wonder if we are in the snowball period with both Robert and Carol. I think it’s really impossible to tell when a caregiver is actually in it but, boy, it sure feels like it sometimes.

We have to celebrate with cake!
Robert has gone from getting sick with bronchitis or pneumonia one or two times a year to four to six times a year. It is getting more difficult to treat him at home when he becomes ill because his mobility goes out the window and he goes downhill so quickly. Not to mention the oral antibiotics that his doctors prescribe are losing their efficacy. He requires IV antibiotics when he’s this sick and that’s something we can’t do at home.

Recovery takes much, much longer. He may end up in the hospital for a week but then needs a few weeks in a SNF to get his strength back. Even when he’s back home, there is a noticeable decline.

The snowball to me means longer recovery times and a steady, permanent decline in Robert’s overall health and mobility.

With Carol, she may have more frequent falls and hospitalizations but she seems to bounce back without an additional decline. At least, if she has a decline in mobility it’s more minor than I have witnessed in Robert.

Both Robert and Carol are back home and the caregiving snowball has been on my mind. They both got home on a Thursday and by Friday, Robert couldn’t walk, had a very tight cough and was exhibiting his usual symptoms of getting sick. His vitals were good but I was concerned, especially since he had choked/coughed a lot during the welcome home dinner!

Thankfully, Robert had a scheduled appointment with his pulmonologist who did an ultrasound to see if there was any fluid lurking in his lungs and agreed with me that antibiotics would help stave off any possibility of an infection. A couple of days of rest and the antibiotics as well as his more aggressive nebulizer treatment (three times a day instead of the usual two) seems to be working. Robert is moving around a bit better but we’re not pushing it. He is using the wheelchair more than usual but we are also letting him walk with the walker for short distances so he can build up his strength.

Sleeping but happy
Carol is sleeping quite a bit but Richard is making sure she is taking her medication and drinking water as well as eating a little something. She eats then goes back to sleep. Sometimes this is an indication she has something brewing but we are chalking it up to not getting good sleep in the facility. (Because we are going to think positive!)

So I don’t know if we are in the caregiving snowball yet or not. I’m happy to have Robert and Carol home, just where they belong and whether we are or not in the snowball really doesn’t matter since Richard and I will move along this journey where it leads us.

I am grateful to have Richard beside me during this crazy caregiving experience and, if we are in the snowball, well – we both love a good snowball fight so I guess things will work out just fine.

My co-pilot

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