My Mantra: “It Could Be Worse”


I have been a caregiver off and on for over forty years, first for my mother, then my father, followed by my sister, my first husband and now, Charlie – my second husband.

When I read posts from others on the AgingCare site I realize how lucky I have been. While they seemed daunting at the time I was gong through them, my experiences pale in comparison to what some of you are going through.

It really is frightening to read some of the horror stories from other caregivers.

Compared to them, Charlie is—so far—a piece of cake, and I realize I have a lot of nerve to complain and feel sorry for myself.

But it certainly makes me wonder what I am in for down the road. Charlie says he plans to live to be 94 (he just turned 80) and, given the changes in his dementia in the past four years, I can see it isn't going to be pretty fourteen years from now.

But then, like I keep telling him, I don't plan to stick around that long. My family genes, for the most part, don't lean toward that kind of longevity.

So the question becomes: What will happen to him if something happens to me?

This is a second marriage; we celebrate our tenth anniversary in July. My children have no obligation to care for him if I precede him in death. He has two adopted children who do not live near us and, for several reasons, are unlikely to be able to care for their father.

If Charlie out-lives me, then I am quite certain that assisted living will become his lifeline. That's why we've looked at some facilities in the area, to get an idea of what is available, and to get Charlie in the mind-set about the possibility of AL in his (our) future.

For now, he says he isn't going if he can't find a place that overlooks forestland or a wild life preserve. If and when the time comes, I'm not sure that option will be available. Transition is always difficult for the elderly, so I can only hope he will not have the presence of mind to care about such things when it's time to make a move.

As for me, for now at least, I am flexible in my thinking. I have always told my children that they should not hesitate to put me in a nursing home when I begin the downhill slide.

Well – it has already begun, but you know what I mean.

I wouldn't wish on them, or anyone, the things the elderly can put their caregivers through.

I pray I can outlive Charlie, if only to make his life easier, with little need for adjustment to various lifestyles over the few remaining years.

For now, life could be worse. This has become my daily mantra.

Marlis describes herself as a “Gramma who loves technology and has a lot to say.” She blogs about whatever catches her interest: food, books, family and more. For, she writes about the issues facing the elderly and her experiences caring for her husband, Charlie, who suffers from dementia.

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There are difficult times, but I think the worst is when you lose a loved one. Second to that are the petty reclusive relatives who disappear when a family member falls ill and needs assistance, until it's time to resolve an estate, then here they come with their hands out crying about their entitlement. Otherwise in general it takes very special people to be caregivers, patience, common sense and immense emotional strength. There should be a medal of honor for every caregiver as far as I'm concerned, and the life lessons learned from it are priceless in so many ways.
Wow, Marlis, you sound like someone I'd like to have nearby to visit. To give so much of yourself for so many years and still be cheerful, that's s a rare gift.

Recently I adopted the mantra, "Yes I can!"

What came to mind reading your words is that I wonder if a residential transition could be made sooner rather than later, to ease the worry of what will happen if you predecease your husband.

I'm aware of retirement communities where they offer stages of care, from zero to nursing home. That way you would have a process in place so your husband is looked after whether you are able to help him or not. Also I know some of these places are expensive. But perhaps there are similar alternatives that could be explored.

Bottom line is to set it up now so you can better enjoy the years that YOU have left. Good luck and God bless.
I care for my 96 year old grandmother now, the greatest challenge I face is her acceptance of her limits. She has been independent her whole life. Her sons are finding it a challenge to face her new limits as well. She has always been the rock we all relied on. Now she needs us. A huge adjustment. I stay out of her way as much as possible, so she keeps as much independence as possible. But always close to keep an eye on her.