By Breeda Miller
The world turns upside down when the caregiver becomes the patient. Last week I had a routine colonoscopy. No problems, just an adult thing to do and I dreaded it. I got the LARGE container of prep drink ready and followed the instructions, like a good patient. Ever the optimist, I figured I would plan to stay home, drink the prep solution and make trips to the bathroom throughout the day. I also thought I would be able to catch up on some emails, write a blog, organize a new event and refinish the kitchen island countertop. Because, well, I wasn’t sick and I just had to stay home and make sure my colon was nice and clean for the test the next day. How hard could that be?
I don’t know who I thought I was. In HINDsight, I should have just decided that the day was dedicated to prepping for the scope and let go of any other plans, misguided or otherwise ridiculously ambitious. I decided that I wanted to get things going, so rather than following the instructions to drink 8 oz every ten minutes and pause. I glugged down a 20 oz biggie size in record time. That’s when I got dizzy and started to feel nauseous. Then I had to lay down. Then I had to get up and get into the bathroom. Then I had to go lay back down. I couldn’t eat anything and I needed to finish all the prep solution so they wouldn’t send me home to do it all over again. I waited a while and then slowly sipped the jug of prep solution. All I have to say is that this prep day took a lot out of me – literally.
You know you need a break when you consider a colonoscopy a kind of a spa day experience. Everyone asks how you are feeling, they look after you, bring you soft warm socks and when you wake up they offer you some crackers and a beverage, complete with a bendy straw. Best of all, you are wrapped in warmed soft blankets. All you have to do is lie back and rest. Until you have to leave and go home.
I have been a caregiver for many years. I cared for my mother through hospice, I have three kids who have had several major surgeries. I know what to do, what to provide and what to ask about. Apparently, no one else in my family got the caregiver memo. My husband is a wonderful, kind loving man. He would do anything I ask. The key is to ASK. It doesn’t occur to him to anticipate things a patient might need to be more comfortable. He went with me to the hospital for the test and he stayed home from work to be near me as I recovered from the anesthetic. He was near me, as he slept.
I am in good health and I am grateful. Other than the occasional migraine attack and a very serious illness in my teen years (I nearly died), I have never been really sick. The colonoscopy provided two days of self-inflicted discomfort and inability to function normally. I had a view of what it must be like for those who suffer from chronic illnesses. Whether it’s an invisible disease like Lupus, depression or neurological illnesses that present in inconsistent and varied ways or more obvious disabilities, I had a window into the patient’s world. It is just beyond comprehension. I had a short experience into the frustration, exhaustion, and isolation that patients must feel everyday. But they don’t experience it for a few days and are back to “normal”. This is their life. How people are able to function with constant nausea, dizziness, and pain every day and still manage to be productive, parent their children, keep a job and carry on is nothing short of miraculous.
Caregiving is hard. Being sick is harder.
Unless you’re unconscious, then being the caregiver is harder. Honestly, being sick is awful and being the caregiver can be really hard. We all hope and pray that our days of being ill are limited and that our role as a caregiver is short and fulfilling. Sometimes it works out that way and sometimes caregiving is the most draining and exhausting experience known to humankind.
You Can’t buy Mental Agility
So, all the more reason to take care of yourself. Caregiving is hard. It’s exhausting, frustrating, and isolating. You must be mentally agile to deal with the complex situations from mental and physical challenges to financial and legal complications, not to mention family drama. Take a Break Before you Break. Your family and your loved one in your care will appreciate a healthy and happy caregiver. My colonoscopy results came back and all is well.
For information about Breeda Miller’s new online membership The Caregiver Clubhouse go to https://breedamiller.com/join/ Registration is only available August 5 – 8.