I have not written in several weeks.
I was busy learning humility, gratitude, patience . . . and what full-time, all-out caregiving really means.
Tracey had total knee replacement surgery at the end of January. In an instant, I went from care partner to 24/7 caregiver. I have been helping her get up and going in the morning, fetching and refreshing the ice machine, retrieving the walker, organizing a slew of pain medications, ferrying her to physical therapy and follow-up appointments, answering the door, making coffee, breakfast, lunch . . . and everything else. I haven’t accomplished anything on my personal to-do list in a month, and when I have half an hour to myself, I just collapse in a chair.
The good news is that into this mess stepped our wonderful, generous, loving, practical friends.
A couple of weeks before Tracey’s surgery, one friend offered to organize some meals for us. When she first suggested this, I felt awkward (Yo! Please cook for me!). It’s hard to ask for help with something you usually do for yourself. However, others who have carried their spouses through knee replacement had already told me that the first month afterward is all-consuming.
My friend found an app called Meal Train and asked others to sign up to bring us dinner on particular days. Every other day for three weeks, we got a whole dinner delivered, plus enough for leftovers. In addition, we often got a short visit with that evening’s chef. Even though I like to cook, just not having to think about dinner was a gift, indeed. So much did our cup runneth over that I did not have to grocery shop for two full weeks.
It doesn’t end there. Friends volunteered to sit with Tracey while I had a nap, ran an errand, or went out for a walk. The other day, a pal came over and hung a curtain for us. Sure, I can do that sort of thing myself, but it would not have gotten done any time soon. Now that she is more mobile, Tracey asks people to go out for a walk or to the art museum to walk indoors on cold days. She gets to talk to someone other than me, and I get to do something on my own.
Common denominator, my caregiver friends? I put aside my pride, my unworthiness, my “I-ought-to-be-able-to-do-this-all-by-myself” attitude and accepted help when it was offered. I even went a step further and asked for help when I needed something in particular. As one wise friend told me many years ago, “It is also blessed to receive.” Asking for and accepting help gives someone else an opportunity to be generous and feel good about it. And humility and gratitude are good for me, too. In fact, I am so very thankful, I have to restrain myself from slobbering my gratitude all over them like a puppy.
So I’m telling you: make a list of what you need, what is not getting done, and then ask someone to help you. Just ask.