Saturday, September 29, 2018

When Caregiving is a Vacation


I didn't realize what was happening until it was too late. I didn't recognize that I was staying in a toxic relationship until I just couldn't take it anymore. The end was perfect timing for a family cruise vacation to Hawaii. It was going to be a perfect mental health cleanse. Only it didn't happen. We experienced passport issues at the airport which prevented us from reaching the cruise ship and embarking on a lifelong dream with my parents. I was completely devastated upon this discovery. We had been planning this vacation for over a year. My heart broke as we left the airport to return home. 

I turned to my friends for comfort and as it turned out, one was due to have knee surgery the following week. I offered to be his caregiver for a week. It wasn't the vacation I expected but it turned out to be something we both needed.

I drove to Colorado and arrived the night before his surgery. We enjoyed dinner out before returning to his home to prepare our overnight bags for what originally was to be an inpatient surgery. I've never really been on the caregiving side so this was to be a new experience for me. I've never waited in a hospital waiting room for someone else undergoing surgery or procedures - it's always been me as the hospital patient. We woke up early on surgery day and made our way to the hospital. I stayed with him until they finished prepping him for surgery and anxiously waited in the waiting room for the surgery to be completed. Finally, the surgeon came out to update me on a successful surgery. With relief, I waited for him to be stable enough in recovery for me to join him. Unfortunately, he had a bit more difficulty coming out of anesthesia and some nausea issues from the pain medicine. These complications delayed our reunion in recovery by a couple hours. While waiting, I updated his family members on his condition until we were finally able to return to his home. 

Aspens starting to change color
We were finally released after the inpatient admission changed to outpatient. We returned home and I was officially a caregiver now. I made sure he had food and drink, his medications at the appropriate times, and did all the little things he needed done while recovering. Just like with anyone in pain and recovering from major surgery, there were times he didn't feel well and it showed emotionally and verbally. I shrugged it off - knowing that I had been the same way after my surgeries. For the next few days we remained cooped up in the house except for when I needed to run errands for him. He asked me to stay an extra day and when he was feeling more like himself, we enjoyed an afternoon road trip through the beautiful Colorado mountains, before my departure the following day.



I didn't mind being cooped up in the house. I was just grateful for not only being able to spend time with my friend but also the break away from my life back home. Nor did I mind providing care to my friend, running errands, and getting up multiple times during the night to help him as needed. My time as a caregiver was only a week and I appreciate the difficulties and strain that accompanies caregiving - particularly long term caregiving. I enjoyed my time as a caregiver. It became a blessing in disguise as we both needed my presence there. He needed a caregiver and I needed the time away from my life. 

I left my friend to return home knowing that the worst part of his recovery had passed and my mental health had improved. We were both grateful for the time and care we provided to each other - me as a physical caregiver and him as an emotional caregiver.