Sometimes it seems that I shouldn’t feel so busy and pressured caring for dad. In fact, he lives in an assisted living facility so I don’t have to watch over him 24 hours a day. I visit him 4 days a week now, down from the 6-7 days I was visiting before.
Even though he doesn’t live with me, I feel like most of my energy goes into watching over his care. In addition to actual visits, I oversee all his financial responsibilities (bill paying and planning for caregivers), make sure he has his medications available, make sure he has sufficient clothing for the season, etc.
I made dad’s medical appointments for his ophthalmologist, his urologist, and other specialists and accompany him. I respond to errors in health insurance reimbursements, regular bills like cable and television, etc. I purchase all of his over the counter medications and bring them to his ALF rather than have him pay inflated prices for the in-house pharmacy. And I make arrangements for paid professional companions to visit him when I must be away.
I guess I was looking and feeling so stressed with my day-to-day duties caring for dad that many friends said I needed to cut back and look after myself more. I made a conscious decision this spring that I would set aside 3 days to specifically NOT visit dad unless there were something that couldn’t wait.
I set aside Mondays to go to a weekly sewing group. That same day I usually stop at the library and purchase my groceries. By the time I get home from all that, it is mid-afternoon and I am too tired to do anything else. Sometimes I sit down and fall asleep! Fridays there are a group of us who play cards or dominoes at the clubhouse. I have been doing that for years and continued to do so. Now however, I don’t try to rush to see dad for an hour first as I used to do.
The only day I leave totally unscheduled is Wednesday. I try not to schedule any medical appointments for either dad or myself. I also try not to use that day to pay dad’s bills (which I generally pay when they arrive) or to phone Medco, Blue Cross, the Cable company, the newspaper and others who have all made many billing errors in the past year.)
Sometimes I end up doing something for dad anyway. Thus a week ago Wednesday was the day I went to visit the small nursing home. I learned a lot, but lost my “day off”. I was determined not to do that this week.
I realized that I had to find a new quilt/fabric store. I had located one two years ago near my daughter’s town. After I had moved here 3 years ago I needed to find all new stores, libraries and other community services. But times change – the fabric store I found and liked went out of business. At first I was too busy to worry about it.
However, this week I realized I needed to get some specific fabric to continue work on a quilt for one of my grandsons. I have been working on this only 2 hours per week at my sewing group and since I piece by hand, it was a slow process. Anyway, the first thing I thought of when I finished the main part of the quilt top was: “Oh no! Now I have to find some border fabric and take the time and energy to cut it out, etc.”
I had become comfortable just sewing along with all the fabric I had cut out before mom died. I set it aside each winter while I was down south so it lasted until now. Wednesday I looked up the store on Google and located it on the map. I printed out the map and determined that I would find it in the town I had not visited before.
It was not that far or that complicated, but since I moved here I tended to stay in the same area and drive the same roads all the time. I don’t like to venture out to new places when I am stressed and it seems like that has included most of the last 3 years! So, I drove to this little town that really isn’t that far from my home. It is just in a direction I hadn’t gone to before.
It was such a small town it had all of about 2 stop lights in addition to the fabric store, the grocery store, the drugstore and a post office. Still, I was surprised that the little quilt shop was not on a street with other stores. Rather it was in a sort of warehouse area a few blocks away. The stores themselves were not on the typical main street either, but were in separate “shopping centers” with huge parking lots and several stores. I was disappointed because I wanted to park and wander around in a nice little town and see quaint shops. That wasn’t what I found. Instead I got my quilt fabric, stopped at the Golden Arches for an early lunch and drove out of town.
From there I decided to drive to the mall that I knew in my own town, not very far from where I was at that time. At the mall I did some more leisurely shopping and eventually came home. It was a nice day for me in that I had no place I had to be. I felt free because I didn’t have to remember to go see dad.
Usually I visit dad for the hour before lunch. Then I take walk with him to his dining room and say goodbye, reminding him of the next time I will be back. This time my day was not constrained by having to be anywhere at any specific time. I was free to go from one destination to the next without caring about the time.
At the end of the day I was satisfied that I had spent the whole day on myself. I found a new shop in a new town and I was still home by mid-afternoon. I know I need more days like that, where I don’t feel pressure to do anything in particular.
But in the meantime, I continue my mostly scheduled life, and take time for myself when I can.