A few years ago, I received a call from one of my cousins. She wanted to let me know that my aunt who spent the last thirty days in the hospital’s ICU unit had no one to take care of her. She was in the hospital because she had three major failures (kidney, heart, and lungs). She called to ask if my aunt could come and “hang” out at my house. Naturally, the answer was yes. She then asked if I could come and pick her up. Again, I said yes.
When I arrived to pick her up, I realized that when she spoke you could hardly hear what she was saying, she could not walk nor could she use her hands. In my mind, I thought “no good deed goes unpunished.” Although I was not prepared to take on someone with such physical challenges, I did transport my aunt back to my home.
What I did not realize was the amount of my personal time that was required to take care of her. I got up at 0400 hours three days per week to give her a bath, make breakfast, and get her to dialysis by 0630. Dialysis was four hours. I got her back home and made lunch. After feeding her lunch, I was off to make dinner for the family. After feeding her dinner, I had to stay awake until 2300 hours to administer the final insulin shot. The other days I got to sleep later by two hours.
What I remembered about this time is this:
- I did not have enough time to communicate with people anymore; thus, I became isolated.
- I did not have enough time to do things for me, such as reading, movies, etc.
- I did not have enough time for the rest of the family, and thus my frustration grew.
For me, I knew that there was an end to providing care for my aunt. I often think about those that must provide care to a love one for a much longer time. How do they cope with the stress? For this reason, I have decided to spend a great deal of my time addressing the needs of these “citizen heroes”.