The Biggest Challenges Caregivers Face When a Loved One Comes Home

Ted--when he first got injured, he was--he was taken to Germany and was not expected to live. I was given the option to withdraw care. His dad and I were given that decision. and one of his friends in Iraq was pulled off of a patrol and was gonna come to Germany to escort his body home to the States. Ted took a very good turn and improved. He was in a coma for a couple months, probably about 2½ months, and was in the hospital for, I think, 10 months consecutively. So the first year for Ted was learning how to talk again, learning how to walk again, learning how to get dressed. As Ted has described it, it was a lot like being born all over again, except it was an accelerated childhood-- that all the things he had learned in the first year of his life he had to re-learn again. Interviewer: What are the biggest challenges for caregivers when their loved ones first come home? Not having the support of others accessible all the time. Umm, there was a great comfort being in a hospital. I know that sounds strange, but knowing that everything wasn't riding on my shoulders. I think the hardest challenge when you first come home is knowing that--how much is riding on you and that there aren't other members of a staff around to call on. Interviewer: What happens when what had been an equal marriage relationship suddenly becomes much less than equal? That is one of the hardest things. Umm, sometimes it's hard, and I find myself sometimes being resentful. It's--I hate to admit that. Interviewer: You mean being human? Sarah: I hate to admit that, but it's the reality of it, that sometimes it's very frustrating to know that I gave up school, I gave up work. I've lost a lot of my friends. And I have to give myself a reality check a lot of times and remind myself that he was in the military when I married him, and I knew that getting injured was a possibility. And like Carolyn was saying, remembering that my job now is helping him, and it is rewarding, because he gets better every day. Interviewer: How would you advise caregivers to cope with the changes to their relationships and to family dynamics? Remembering to take care of yourself, which is easier said than done. People would tell me that all the time, and I would get angry because I wasn't neglecting myself by choice; I was neglecting myself because I had no other option. Sometimes it means that the family member that you're caring for has to make some accommodations for you. I've sat around and waited for Ted at many an appointment, and I decided a while ago that an hour out of every single day would be for me. Sometimes that meant that I wasn't running to Subway at Walter Reed and eating while walking down the hallway. Sometimes it meant that I actually sat down for 30 minutes and ate my meal. But one of the things that I also did was I would go to the gym, and Ted would have to sit on the exercise bike next to me, because he was just going to have to wait on me for an hour. And--you know--I think it's important to remember that there is a give and take.
Posted on BrainLine March 16, 2010.