Caregiver’s Syndrome Update

Sunset on the beach

Hernia surgery should not be a big deal. I’ve put it off for over a year, not because I’m afraid of the surgery, but rather the recovery time. No lifting, pulling or pushing more than five pounds for three weeks and twenty-five pounds for an additional three weeks. That rules out taking care of Mark for six weeks. I’d still be procrastinating having the surgery had I not been sure two months ago Mark was going to need hip surgery. He was having pain, so I took him to the primary care physician and he ordered an x-ray. Since I have to transfer Mark onto the table, I’m given the opportunity to stand behind the glass wall with the technician and see the x-rays on the screen as they are taken. I’ve been behind the glass wall for every x-ray Mark has had in the past twenty-four years and I recognized the calcium build-up in his hips from a similar looking x-ray twenty-one years ago. I wasn’t surprised when the doctor recommended Mark visit an orthopedic surgeon after reading the radiologist’s report.

It made perfect sense to me for Mark to see the same surgeon who successfully performed the hip surgery years ago. Unfortunately, there was a six week wait to get an appointment. Meanwhile, I’m thinking the perfect time for me to have my hernia surgery, would be right after Mark’s hip surgery. He would need rehab and would qualify for care for in a rehab center—this would allow me some recovering time from my surgery.

I had my CT scan done and made the appointment with the general surgeon, who wanted to schedule the surgery right away. I told her it wasn’t possible until after Mark’s surgery.

Finally, when the six week waiting time ended, the orthopedic surgeon didn’t feel another surgery on Mark’s hips was possible, so all my planning went down the drain. Now that everyone knew I needed surgery for a hernia, there was no backing out. The past two weeks have been crazy interviewing and trying out aides who could care for this precious man of mine who is 6’2”, weighs 180 lbs. and is stiff and rigid, which makes him difficult to move. It’s been a challenge to find someone qualified to help him with showering and other personal care. Our daughter, Katie, offered to come and stay in our home to get her Dad in and out of bed and fix the meals. We are so fortunate to have her and since our son, Christopher, now lives in Washington, she carries the load with the support of her husband, Eldin.

Tomorrow is the big day for my surgery. I’m not at all concerned about it. I’m just wondering if, when and how I’ll get over my caregiver’s syndrome. I wrote about this October 16, 2013 and I still haven’t found a cure for it. Below is my account of the doctor’s appointment where I was diagnosed with it.

I have caregiver’s syndrome: I can make appointments and take Mark to the doctor more easily than I can do it for myself. My excuses are: I spend too many hours in the doctor’s office as it is; my issues are not serious; I’ll go later when things settle down. The truth is “trigger” thumb is not as serious as blood clots. However, it’s uncomfortable as well as somewhat debilitating. After trying creams and a thumb-support brace prescribed by my primary care physician seven months ago, I was convinced that only surgery would fix my problem.

I put off the appointment with an orthopedic doctor for months. How could I have surgery anyway? I need my hands not only for my care, but for Mark’s as well. Who would shower, dress, and transfer him? I didn’t want to ask family or friends.

Since September, when Mark returned home from the care center, we have the benefit of home health care. I really appreciate the extra support this gives me. I wish the insurance would see it as a continual necessity. But since they don’t, if I have to have surgery, now is the time, while Mark has this benefit.

I made my appointment.

After a three-week wait to get in to the doctor, I was told a cortisone shot would most likely take care of the problem. I had it and it did. Why did I wait so long? It was almost instant relief. The thumb is still a little stiff and I can’t completely bend it yet, but it’s only been one week.  The pain is gone.

I also made an appointment for my annual checkup that was four years past due.

“Have you had your colonoscopy yet?” the doctor asked.

“No,” I said, bracing for her reprimand.

“You’re almost 5 years late. You better get that scheduled. It’s not that bad.”

“I have helped my husband through the preparation twice. It was horrible!”

She imagines about how hard that would be for a wheelchair dependent person and the hundreds of rushed transfers to the commode, and then she agreed with me.

“The preparation is the worst part, then you get to nap,” she said, and suggested that next time I get Mark admitted in the hospital for the preparation.

“We can do that?” I asked.

She thought in his case we could.

After reviewing the questionnaire I had filled out just before the appointment, she looks at me and asks, “Why are you taking Flomax?”

“For my allergies,” I replied.

“Flomax is not for allergies it’s for the prostate.”

Turning red in the face I said, “Oh yeah, that’s my husband’s prescription. Mine is a nasal spray called, Flo something.”

She chuckled, “You mean Flonase.”

“Oh, yeah, that’s it.”

“You definitely have caregiver’s syndrome,” she said.

I’ll gladly take that reason over being absent-minded and resolve to pay more attention to my own health. I only have two prescriptions and I can’t remember the names of them. Mark, on-the-other-hand has several prescriptions, and those I know.

Mark’s well-being is dependent on me, therefore as a caregiver I should pay more attention to my own health so I can be well and strong.

It’s easy to say, hard to do. But I’m going to work at it.”

I’m afraid I’ve failed at taking better care of my own health. I still haven’t had my colonoscopy, but I took Mark in for his in October 2014. I’ve put off the hernia surgery for nineteen months. This tells me I’m still suffering from this syndrome. If any of you caregivers know how to deal with it, I’d appreciate some advice.

I’ll be in dreamland for the next week or so. I’ve been in the planning stages for this simple surgery way too long, but I’ll let you know how it all turns out when I’m feeling up to it. In the meantime, I hope all is well with you.

6 thoughts on “Caregiver’s Syndrome Update

  1. Here’s hoping everything goes well and your recovery is speedy. You will be amazed at how much easier it is to care for Mark if you take good care of yourself. That is very important.

    Expect cookies next week.

    Love you, Mom

    Sent from my iPad


  2. My thoughts and prayers will be with you, Barbara! You do deserve to take care of yourself. I’m sure your family has been after you for a very long time. Try to enjoy the rest and don’t you dare do anything that will damage all the work that has to be done with hernia surgery! Love you!

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