Thursday, January 28, 2010

Finding Yourself while caregiving

I sometimes have difficulty remembering who I am and who I was before my husband's tragic brain injury. I am so focused on his needs most of the time, I sometimes feel I have lost myself. I have been told by family and friends that I need to do things for myself, but that has been something I have been unable to do. I tried leaving him at an adult day care once, and when I returned to pick him up, all he could do was cry. That tore my heart up and I have been unable to do that again. Most of the time, I don't feel a need to take care of myself and find other things to do. It doesn't seem important to me. His care is my only concern most of the time. When we have the grandkids I can focus on them and him - it keeps me busy.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Today is the First Day

Today is the first day of the rest of our lives.  That is so true and when you think about that, it makes today a better day. One of the things I have learned in caring for my husband is that each day is a new day to start again.  I recently learned how important hydration is to an injured brain.  My husband was in the hospital in July with pneumonia and dehydration.  As I always try to make sure he is getting enough liquid, I guess I didn't realize that he wasn't getting enough liquid.  I learned the hard way about hydration and the effects on the brain, especially a brain that has been damaged.

Here are the things I have learned over the course of his caregiving:
1.  Repeat, repeat, repeat what you want the brain-injured person to learn (or re-learn)
2.  Hydration - so very important
3.  As much exercise as you can help with (in my case, taking his hand and making him walk around the house as much as possible).
4.  Read to them
5.  Help with words.  If I just start the first syllable of a word, he can many times remember the whole word.

The doctor explained to me that our brains are like file cabinets.  In my husband's case, his file cabinet was emptied and scattered everywhere.  Trying to get this back together over the last 12 years has been a challenge, but in some instances, it has worked.

Today is the first day of the rest of our lives, and we will live it to the fullest.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Our Journey with Brain Injury

Our journey with brain injury started on a crisp October morning in 1997. My husband and I had just completed our morning walk and I was getting ready for work when I heard a horrible crashing sound coming from our kitchen. I ran to the kitchen and found my husband on the floor gasping for breath. He was in the midst of a cardio-pulmonary arrest. In my panic I could only think of pumping on his chest until the paramedics arrived. They were able to resuscitate him and restart his heart. Unfortunately, he had suffered a lack of oxygen to his brain, resulting in damage to his left temporal and both frontal lobes.

Through the ensuing days, there were many setbacks that could have ended his life, but through them all, he came back. After three months in the hospital, two of those months in a rehabilitation facility, he came home with me. I searched high and low for medical procedures that could help him, including hyperbaric oxygen treatments and biofeedback. I was encouraged in reading about brain injury that the brain can be retrained by repetition.

Through the last 12 years of caring for him, we have had our good days and our bad days. I choose to remember the good days, since everyone has bad days. We live each day to the fullest and believe that tomorrow will be better. We have been blessed with four great grandchildren since his illness started. They are wonderful children and as they watch me caring for "grandpa", they have learned (without knowing it) great compassion toward grandpa, and others with disabilities. I am a caregiver to my husband, and at times, caregiver to my great grand kids.

Words are difficult for my husband, and lately he has started calling me "baloney".