The Great Escape: Why Every Caregiver Needs One


Just when I think I have run out of material for this blog, Charlie gives me inspiration.

I ran away today. I suppose it was long overdue. Four feet of snow and below zero temperatures have kept us cooped up all winter, except for an occasional trip to the doctor, dentist or grocery store.

Yesterday, we talked all day about going out to Sunday brunch or dinner. Charlie promised to get up early, take a shower and shave. The last thing he said last night was, "Be sure and get me up by 9:00 a.m."

Okay – fine. I waited until 9:30, giving him a little leeway. When I called him, the response I got was, "I don't want to go." So, I shut the door and left him to his misery. It wasn't that he didn't feel well enough; he just didn't see any reason to get up, even though I reminded him of our plans.

The doctor put Charlie on an antidepressant the last time he was there, thinking that the medication might help motivate him to spend less time in bed. It hasn't helped.

It was 12:30 p.m. before he emerged, ready for "breakfast." By then, I was fuming. I fed him bacon, eggs, toast and coffee, put on my face, and told him I was going out.

He wanted to know where I was going and I told him I didn't know. I didn't. I just knew I had to escape before I blew my top.

So I ran away.

I ran to JC Penney and did some damage to the credit card. Then, I ran to Panera Bread and did some damage to my waistline—a cappuccino and a cherry blintz will do that. Then I ran to a couple other places—I needed some Easter treats for the little girls.

When I ran out of places to escape to, I ran home.

I toyed with the idea of sitting in the library for a couple of hours, but then I had visions of Charlie falling, leaving the stove on, or locking him self in the garage (he did that a couple of times) and thought better of it.

Charlie was back in bed when I got home at 2:30 p.m. but he was up by three o'clock. He never forgets what he is supposed to do at 3 p.m. That's his "happy hour." He always tells me, "It's five o'clock somewhere."And there he'll sit, happy as a clam, with his wine glass full, until bedtime.

The "quiet man" suddenly becomes a chatterbox throughout the news and movie(s) he likes to watch, telling me war stories I've heard a thousand times, and asking me over and over what we are doing tomorrow, until it's time to call it a day.

So, that's the story of our life.

Charlie hasn't been out of the house in over a week. There was a quick, disastrous trip to stock the wine cooler—which ended when he had a "personal" accident as we neared home. Not pretty—I'll spare you the details. I don't think that had anything to do with his reluctance to go out today. I doubt if he even remembers it. He just does not want to get out of bed and, even worse, he doesn't want to take a shower; that is always one of my rules for an outing.

I'm sure most of you have had days like this. I'm afraid that one day I may just keep running. But, in the meantime, today's great escape recharged my batteries. And instead of spilling my anger out on him, I vent to you, my readers. Thanks for listening.

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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I feel your pain Marlis! I am the primary caregiver to my 82 year old mother. She has lived with my husband and I for almost 3 years now. She has macular degeneration and some dementia. I need to do EVERYTHING for her. I have a sister who tries to relieve me by taking my mom for a day or two. Mom doesn't want to go. Since Christmas, she has only been away from me for ONE day. I am very tired. I am also co-parenting my 7 year old granddaughter during the week ( for school reasons). I really need some much needed ME time, but can't get a break. Like you, I run out to do some shopping ALONE, just to be by myself. I just wish she would understand I need some space once in awhile and get something done for myself. God bless you for what you do. It's not easy.
We are a compassionate group, aren't we. The caregivers. At least I try to be, and many times, I'm not. I'm really not cut out to be a caregiver. I'm bitter, I'm mean, I'm hateful, and most of all, I'm guiltridden because I have these feelings--which are, by the way, kept on the inside. I certainly don't want anyone to know how I'm REALLY feeling. They have absolutely NO idea how much I hate being in this position. Run away?? Oh yes, I think about this all the time. I'm way past caring what people would think if I did actually leave him. They aren't here helping me, that's for sure. I would leave in a nano-second--if it weren't for my grandchildren. Can you believe it? Always something throwing a wrench in the works. My children are my joy, but they have their young lives and are busy raising (okay, rearing) their children and all that goes with being young and energetic. I remember those days (saddness welling). My grandchildren--they are my absolute joy and I can't imagine not seeing their faces light up when they see me. I have to stay in this miserable day to day unrewarding caregiving situation whether I like it or not. My next step is to find a way to get away for a few days without him (see, guilt seeping in--he misses not being able to go away too--now sadness again. It isn't fair to him either.) yoy. Can't win. Sorry for the vent. You all are so strong. I'm hoping I can learn to tolerate as time moves on. It's only been 3 years, not a lifetime. Marlis, thank you for showing me that the 'run away' impulse isn't just on me. I'll take an afternoon or two and try the TRA (temporary run away). No one will be the wiser.
Thank you for venting. I am also caring for my husband with FTD. It is a challenging and lonely job. He is only 62 and probably 5 years into the disease. He also resists the hygiene of all sorts. His mental deterioration is happening rapidly. He can't be left alone. He is into everything and becoming unsteady on his feet. I want to escape also, but easier said than done. Do it while you can. You write beautifully.