“I need time to think,” I would say to my husband. He didn’t quite understand. But, I fought for some time to step away from my current life. This always helped me look more objectively at my situation. I needed to keep myself from drowning, mentally. Your brain cannot focus only on your caregiving 24 hours a day, seven days a week, without something snapping. It needs to recharge and rejuvenate. It needs diversion and escape. In the last couple of years of his life, when I had sold my business and was nearly cut off from the outside world, I needed it most. He was blind and nearly deaf besides being in the late stages of congestive heart failure and unable to walk. No one knew how to take care of him like I did. But, there were some who could manage for a short time.
For a few hours, three days a week, whether he understood and agreed or not, I was able to manage some time. There are many ways this can happen. First, you need to understand that it’s a must. You might not even express it in words, like I did. You’ll know you are unhappy, or frustrated frequently. You might be angry and find yourself apologizing for your behavior often. If it sounds like a great idea to have some time to think, it may be more necessary than you recognize.
I realize now, that over the years, I had made friends with very caring, giving people without knowing how grateful I would one day be for knowing them. I speak about them in my-upcoming book at length. Here I want to give you ideas that will help while you’re creating your own “time to think.”
My husband’s grandson (I claim him as my grandson now) came every Sunday for years to cook with his grandfather. Even when my husband couldn’t cook anymore, they still shared the time together, first with Ty doing all the cooking and eventually, with just sitting together and talking. It was wonderful for their relationship and generous toward me. I had five hours every Sunday to do a little shopping, maybe browse the bookstore and have a meal out, being waited on at a restaurant. What a treat!
During the years when it was possible, our next door neighbor, Bob, a very kind man, would take my husband and two other gentlemen from the neighborhood to lunch, wheelchair and all. That started as a way for all of them to improve their days.
I have a friend, Eva, who came to the house two mornings a week for three to four hours, did mostly housekeeping at first, which became less over the three and a half years of serious illness. This time, on weekdays, allowed me at first to continue seeing a few clients a week in my office. Later I used the time to see a doctor myself, or go to a market or drug store. Sometimes I could meet a friend for coffee!
Neighbors and friends would drop in for a visit and that was always nice for some diversion for both of us. And, of course, there were times when I called someone in a pinch for help, but, here I’m talking about organized time for yourself that you can count on consistently.
If you’re not inclined to ask for what you need, maybe a family member that you can discuss things with could send a note to friends and family, suggesting some things that would help you and see if there are any volunteers. People just don’t know how to help. If they knew that you needed two mornings a week, two people could come by for two hours each. But, they don’t know if you don’t tell them.
“Professional” advice will tell you to arrange “respite” care for yourself. Many insurance companies pay for two weeks of respite care a year. There was no way I was ever going to be away from my husband for two weeks. Neither of us would have agreed to that. But, if it works in your case, it would be a good idea. You still need time to yourself on a regular basis several times a week, however.
If you must hire people to come in, I hope you will make it a financial priority. Time to think is not selfish, or indulgent. It’s as important for your loved one as it is for you. If you’re not in good health and are mentally unstable, how can you take the best care of the person in your charge? Your lives are intertwined in this dance and your ability to oversee; to observe from a distance and act on what needs attention, will determine how much self-respect you have when all is said and done. Please arrange for “Time to Think.”