I took care of my wife for ten years, and she finally went into assisted living. I visit her most every day, but now I have no time for myself anymore. What can I do? - AgingCare.com

I took care of my wife for ten years, and she finally went into assisted living. I visit her most every day, but now I have no time for myself anymore. What can I do?

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JT:

There's no doubt you still love her very much, but you need to get on with the rest of your life. If there was good communication between you before she went into AL, I'm sure she'll understand you can't continue to put things on the back burner while seeing to her needs. After all, you did that for 10 years.

In any case, she's still your wife and you have to meet her half way. I suggest you visit her Tue., Thu., & Sat. 2-4 hours, but make sure it's quality time. Your children can fill in the rest of the week, but don't expect them to.

For better or worse, in sickness and in health, you took a vow to be there. When you live life to the fullest, you don't have to worry about how many years you have left. And most things aren't seen as an obligation but as building blocks of joy and love. So don't forget to spend Christmas and greet the New Year with her. If you've never kissed under the mistletoe, now's your chance.

-- ED
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I agree with Lilli. If you cannot afford to hire a caregiver, could a neighbor or a church friend or just a friend go in ever so often to give you a break. I also read the comment about having the phone call go through the desk. That was an awesome idea. We learn from each others experiences and that brings a little hope to our own life.
We have a program in my local city called Partners In Hope and they have a lot of seniors volunteering to help others out. Check around in your community and see if their might be some kind of program in your area. They help people in need of financial, food, transportation and sometimes caregiving. It's a good area to start in. Good luck. You are a devoted spouse and there are not many out there. Thank you! Donna H.
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Jtr,

As a former primary caregiver, I know it's hard to let other people take care of your relative, let alone someone as close to you--your wife. ...but if you feel like you have less time for yourself now (that she is in assisted living) than when she was living at home with you--maybe you ought not to go up there as often. I know that sounds hard to do. Maybe you could look at it as 1) taking a few days of vacation off. You can let the staff know at the ALF (Assisted Living Facility) that they can reach you if anything urgent comes up and you'll be back in a few days. It doesn't necessarily have to be on the weekends, it could be during the week. I know I don't like to leave my relatives in the hospital, nursing home, assisted living facility
alone on the weekends. ...but I also know that they have a set procedure that they are to follow, so if I go up and spend an hour, 2 or 3, or half the day--I know they're there to care for her. When I was caring for my MIL at home, my husband & sister talked me into going on a wkend getaway (with my sister and some old friends that I hadn't seen since college). I felt guilty that I was leaving my MIL for the weekend (even though I knew that my husband and SsIL would care for her). You know what? I had a good time and I recharged my batteries (so to speak)! Take some time out for yourself and then you can come back to the assisted living facility where your wife is and you'll feel refreshed. If you feel like you have to find out how she is, you can always call and speak to the nurses. I hope this helps! Good luck!
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I highly recommend (if you can afford it) hiring a paid caregiver to be with her at certain times of the day. This will give her someone else to interact with and also gives you another "set of eyes" at the facility where she lives. She will also be a little less dependent on you and you have someone there who is dedicated to her care not 50 other patients.
It is a slippery slope when you become someone's only contact. Her depression will take you down.
You sound like a responsible man who cares deeply for your wife. Shame on the daughters who just "cannot take" seeing their mother in her present condition (this is happening in my family too....and I agree, you just cannot look the other way and hope that your loved one gets the help they need.)
I fear that if you do not get some time to rejuvenate, you will be joining her soon.... Take care of yourself, so you can take care of your wife.
good luck,
Lilli
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My mom is in a facility and there were times she used to call a lot, someitmes at inconvenient times for odd requests. I don't think she can figure out how to work the cell phone anymore, which is actually kind of sad though. It is on her dresser and maybe it gives her a feeling of security at least. She told them not to let my dad keep calling her when she had to put him in a facility; he just wanted to come home and didnt' understand. But, Mom did not understand his condition, and had just yelled at him all the time, and could not help him up when he fell, so he really could not stay there. And yet he loved her and missed her and wanted to be back home. After a while he adjusted and I would visit when I could and update him on Mom after she became unable to visit any more.

The staff where my mom is now know we visit often, and not at predictable times, and they know we care how she is treated. Care is not going to be perfect but it is not bad either, or we would not have kept her there. And just bringing stuff every few days is good, my mom really appreciates it when I stock her up on her favorite sugarfree candies or bring her clean or new clothes, or drag one of the grandkids in to visit. Once she gets the idea that you bring her stuff and see her every so often and that calling you does not result in anything happening, things wil get better. Now if you answer the phone every 4th or 5th time she calls, she wil keep calling and calling and calling - its called "intermittent reinforcement" and it is a very powerful technique to induce persistent behavior - which is GREAT if you want that behavior! You may have to make her go through staff to call you AND plan for calls to occur regularly when it is reasonable for you. They could let her call you maybe at 2 PM every day, and for real emergencies. And then you visit when you can. It may not be every day, but a few times a week could be fine. It might need to be shorter time each visit - if you stop in every day, defintiely make it for a shorter time. You don't have to feel guilty that you can't spend all your time taking her calls or staying with her, just do enough to reassure her she is not being abandoned and make sure they realize you are checking on things and care about her. You are almost certainly right that she could still be depressed even if she was living in the Taj Mahal with royal attendants AND your full time attention.

BTW, tardive dyskinesia is very hard to manage, a really good neurologist might try med changes and some meds to counteract it, but it often does not subside very much at all no matter what you do.

God bless you for caring, and I know you wish you - or someone- could do more to make it better. It probably can't be done or it would have been done already though. Nothing wrong with getting a second or third psychiatry or neurology opinion and staying on top of research, but there just may not be anything else. Most everything I had them to try for my mom backfired with side effects, unfortunately,
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Thank you for replying.My wife has yardive dyskensia as well as cronic depression.She is confused most of the time about her body but seems to know exactly whats going on around her.She's depressed because she does not like where she is but I think she would be depressed no matter where she is.She is at a very nice and careing assisted living(emeritus)but we are not sure for how much longer.She walks without her walker and wanders.Because of her movements she has had a few bad experiences with other residents comments and their treatment of her.The doctors dont know what to do for her and it's so sad to watch.She is only 67 but looks much older now.She has two daughters but they seldom go to see her.They claim "it's too hard".It's hard for me too but we dont shoot our wounded ya know? I am responsible or at least I feel responsile to watch over her and make sure her needs are met and she gets good care.I'm all she has right now so I go over each day(mostly) just to let her know she's not alone.I bring her necessary items such as snacks and toileteries etc.Problem is she has become very dependant on me and gives me no peace.On the days I dont go over she calls,sometimes 10-15 times just to tell me how miserable she is.I usually dont answer but I hear it ringing.I know I'm being codependant but what can I do? She has been such a part of my life for such a long time.
We have been through a suicide attempt on her part,two hip replacements,breast cancer and masectomy,depression and 28 shock treatments all in a three year period.I'm just exhausted.Thanks again for listening.
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Are you worried about the time your wife is there without you? Is she adequately taken care of? I was asked, once, to just go and spend time with a woman's mother in assisted living, while the daughter was at work. She just wanted to know someone kind was sitting and talking with her mom for a few hours. Perhaps you can find someone like me who enjoys doing that!
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How did you have time for yourself before when you were taking care of her at home?

Are you depressed? If so, you might be spending too much time when visiting and visiting too often because depression feeds off of depression. I noticed that you said your wife has depression.

One would think that her being in assisted living would me you had more time for you but that is probably hard to do after having her home for 10 years being taken care of by you.
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