Wednesday, April 15th. 2020.
I assist your mom in cooking her favorite meals because she has frequent falls in the kitchen.
I reassure you that your father’s physical therapy is helping, and I can see the improvements every visit I have with him and I help him with his exercises.
I take your mom out to dinner, to bingo, I wheel her around at the zoo because you are busy or live in another state. You have asked me to help keep her mind occupied, as you aren’t able to be there for her and give her all the assistance she needs.
Your brother was in a car accident and has a Traumatic Brain Injury. I endure his yelling and punches as I try to calm him because I understand that his brain now works differently than mine or yours, and I know you can’t be there every hour of the day to ensure he doesn’t injure himself.
I stay the night with your grandmother because she has dementia, it is a cold winter, and she leaves the house in slippers and a nightgown at 3am in the morning if someone is not with her. We stay up late, laughing about something on TV and talking about her life, she reminds me to keep my voice down because her husband is sleeping in their room, and the kids are in the other bedroom. Her husband passed away 20 years ago and the children are grown with their own children now.
Your sister has a condition that limits her ability to care for herself. She is unable to wipe herself after going to the bathroom. I wipe her bottom for her. I make sure she doesn’t have any rashes or sores that could become infected. I try to help her keep her dignity as much as possible so she doesn’t feel embarrassed or awkward.
Your aunt had a stroke, and is unable to do much by herself. I cook for her. I clean the house. If she loses control of her bladder or bowels, I clean her up and then I clean the mess. I shower her. I feed her by hand. I help her relearn to retie her shoes, having her do as much as she can to keep her strength up. She cries because she can’t speak. I hug her and reassure her that we can communicate in other ways. I leave that day smiling and waving goodbye, but inside I want to break apart because my own grandmother died 2 days ago, after suffering a stroke.
I work a 12 hour day shift, for the 4th day in a row. I get a call when I’m halfway home. They are asking me to care for your uncle. A coworker did not show for their shift. I stop at the gas station and get a bottle of cold coffee, and a bag of chips for dinner. I head immediately to your uncle's house and I stay up all night to ensure he doesn’t fall in the bathroom after having a hip replacement.
You ask me to stay with your mom for 72 hours, or 3 days. You are going on a trip out of state. You tell me I can sleep on the couch in another room, give me a blanket and a pillow. Your mom can’t sleep for more than an hour at a time. She forgets she needs help walking and she doesn’t call out for help during the night. I end up sleeping on the floor next to her bed for 3 nights in a row, so that when she gets up, I feel her getting out of bed and I’m there to walk her to the bathroom and keep her safe.
Your grandmother is on hospice and has dementia. She doesn’t remember that she doesn’t have the strength to stand, let alone walk. But she insists on walking to the bathroom at 2am. I can’t stop her, so I walk with my arms under hers. Every 30 seconds she asks what we’re doing. I try to redirect her to bed. She remembers we’re going to the bathroom. We spend half an hour walking to the bathroom. In the bathroom she forgets she already went pee and tries to go again. This goes on for an hour. The walk back from the bathroom, she is more confused. An hour later and halfway back to bed,I pick her up and carry her since she doesn’t have a wheelchair. In the morning I leave, exhausted on my hour’s drive home and it’s all I can do to stay awake as my back is in severe pain and I’m so tired from repeating the time and date for nearly 12 hours straight.
Your mother is in hospice, bedridden. She believes I am trying to poison her when I hand her a bite of food, or a sip of water. I duck as she throws a glass at me that hits the wall and shatters, coffee covering the walls, ceiling, and floor now. I try to change her brief and she screams at me, pinches my arms, bites my hands, because it hurts. You waited to ask for help caring for her until after she had a stage 3 bedsore. All I want to do is to clean her up from the bowel movement she had, and to check for signs of the bedsore worsening.
As your father lays in his deathbed, he asks me, “Am I going to die?” I just answer him with words of comfort. I tell him it’s up to God(if he is religious). I attempt to reassure him. The next day he is comatose. He can no longer eat or drink. I wet his mouth and clean the inside of his mouth with a swab for comfort. You are not there because you can’t watch it. I work the night shift. I monitor him every half hour to measure his pulse, oxygen, and respirations. I watch his vitals slowly fall, until he is only taking 2-3 breaths a minute and death is imminent. I am sitting on one side, his friend is on his other side. A single tear slips down my face as I watch the light leave his eyes. His breathing stops. His eyes glaze over. I tell his friend he’s gone, he then steps outside to breathe. I try to close his eyes, but they don’t shut. They stay open, lifeless and staring. I turn him and I change his brief, after his bowel muscles have released. I cross his arms over his chest, rigor mortis already setting in. I call hospice, they send someone to verify he has passed away. After everything is taken care of, I have been there for 16-18 hours. I call my grandmother and I tell her I love her. I text my parents and ask if we can have a family dinner sometime. When I leave, I go to a park with trails that is nearby. I walk and I cry for an hour. Looking at the trees and noticing they are budding and coming back to life after a hard winter, and I pray for the man I just watched die as I held his hand.
If I contract Covid 19, who will take care of me? Am I going to die? I do not make enough to pay someone to care for me, as I care for others. I have mounting credit card debt because I don’t make enough for the essentials of living, such as food. I don’t have health insurance, and I have to pay for my healthcare with a credit card. I need to go to the doctors now but I can’t afford it, I have hives spreading on my arms, my skin is cracking and bleeding and I can’t find the cause. I am so mentally and physically exhausted, working 40-60 hour weeks as I deal with my own emotional aftermath since my husband started the fight that ended our marriage on the day of my grandmother’s burial, all because I was out of state for 2 weeks to be with my own grandmother as she died. I look at my checks and I try to figure out how I’m paying off my healthcare bills. How I can pay for rent on my own. I moved states with my two days off of work one week. I flew my things home in a suitcase, leaving many behind because I couldn’t afford to pay for a 2nd checked bag. I have asthma. I am working as a healthcare professional during the Covid 19 outbreak in Michigan. I am a home healthcare worker, and I make less than what people on unemployment during the pandemic are making. I endure being yelled at, having things thrown at me, punched, bitten. All so that your parents or family do not have to go to a nursing home. So they can remain in their own home as they age, and inevitably pass away.I endure all of this as I am told that I am not worth as much as someone else, who stays home. Their job is too important. So they can have months off of work, paid 900$ a week to stay home. And I’m lucky to see 500$ net pay weekly working sometimes 5 or 6 days a week. I have cried every day on my way home from work the last 2 months, as I try to make sense of everything going on. The company I work for does not overcharge our patients. They barely make a profit after paying me and their overhead fees, I do not get hazard pay. But I can barely survive. I want to quit and apply for unemployment, but then who will care for my patients? We are understaffed as people quit during the pandemic. So I work my ass off and I take a wage that’s less than unemployment. I smile at your loved one as I break down inside, and my heart crumbles into pieces from coping with the stress.