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Deborah M Greenough

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· A Life Shaping Experience
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Caregiving - Are You Prepared?
By Deborah M Greenough
Monday, August 27, 2007

Rated "PG" by the Author.

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I never knew being the caregiver of someone could be so difficult, and so life-changing.

Have you ever thought about caring for a family member who has become ill or has had major surgery? Do you think that it will be easy? Do you have others who will give you support? Are you capable of juggling your life as well as the ailing family member? Do you comprehend the responsibilities that you will face? Read on to experience my adventure with care giving and decide for yourself if you have what it takes.
Being placed into the position of a care giver can be caused by many types of situations. They can range from sitting for the grandchildren to caring for the elderly but all of them take strength, courage, persistence, understanding, and a lot of commitment. My experience first began when my fiancť had his knee replaced and has been continued by his back surgery.
The reasons behind the knee replacement started from a terrible car accident which completely mangled Jimís right leg. He was in a coma for many months and had to be placed in a cast for nearly a year. He finally recovered and eventually became a paramedic and, while he loved this job, the intensity of the physical ability it took weakened his body. The doctor finally decided to replace his right knee and also had to remove bone from his left knee. He was out of work for quite some time and needed a lot of physical therapy. But, I was there for him and he soon was walking without his cane.
The care he needed during this time of recovery seemed difficult but it was manageable. Little did I know that right around the corner a nightmare was about to unfold.
Only a week after returning to work Jim had to have major back surgery which included four discs being fused and a vertebrate being caged. The doctor informed us that his back had weakened due to his previous physical labor as a paramedic as well as the straightening of his leg caused from the knee replacement. I wasnít ready to be the care giver again but with no one else available I stepped up to the plate.
The back surgery went well but the recuperation was the nightmare. I was not allowed my FMLA that is legally available for those caring for an ill family member so I needed to juggle work, school, and the care of Jim. He was so medicated that he never knew where he was or even who I was and, to make things worse, his employer had fired him because of the surgeries. Life was falling all around me but I had to remain strong.
I was forced to go to work leaving Jim at home by himself. I was told by my employer that if Jim needed me he would call but the fact is Jim didnít know what he needed or if I was in the home or not. Then, one day, I came home to find he had fallen half way off of the couch. He had twisted his back which caused him to have a minor stroke. I thought he was dead when I first walked in to the room! How could my employer do this to us? Why were they denying my FMLA? I was scared, furious, and all alone. And, I eventually lost my job also.
As Jimís caregiver I had to feed him, bathe him, help him up and down and to and from the bathroom, transport him to doctor and therapy appointments, keep track of his medications, exercise him, and comfort him. I also had to manage the household, keep up with my schooling, and try to show up for my job. I was a mess but I pulled through. Sadly, Jim will never be the same man.
I hope that my experience will cause you to think about the effect being a caregiver can have on your life. This responsibility can change you as a person and can alter the life you have known. You are not always able to plan for these types of situations so you must be able to conform to the role quickly. It wonít be easy and you cannot always count on having someone there to help you out. And remember, the causes may be life threatening and the effects will be life changing.

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