THE GOLDEN YEARS

Whoever said old age was the golden years lived in la la land. This is my story of
those golden years. When we sold our business, my husband and I were in our mid-
fifties and we had been married for thirty eight years. Our business was stressful and
demanding. We were in business for thirty five years. I did not want to work any more.
So, I gave notice to my boss, also known as my husband, that I was quitting my job as
bookkeeper, office manager, parts runner, dispatcher, etc. He had one year to find
my replacement. The reason I gave for leaving was I had a to-do list and working in his
business was not on it. My husband worked long hard hours but that was what he
wanted to do. In the beginning I was only working to help him out and soon it became
a forever full time job. Well, needless to say, my husband was totally surprised, to say
the least, when I announced my intentions to retire. About two weeks later, he consulted
with our dogs regarding his retirement. Evidently they thought it was a great idea and he
retired. We sold the business. It was time to do all those things I wanted to do. I was so
happy. The only problem was my husband has always worked and did not know what to
do with his time. I let him know that I was not going to wait on him and he had better find
some hobby. Meanwhile, I bought him all kinds of saws and woodworking tools. I also
bought patterns and the wood to start his projects. Enough said. He found out that he
really enjoyed creating unusual wood carvings. He did some awesome projects. Now I
could do my own thing.

I enrolled in a painting class–loved it. Started painting and sketching–what a stress reducer.
Finally, I was able to do my own thing. During this time we became caregivers for my
husband’s parents. The next seven years were stressful, frustrating and demanding. Let’s
just say at this point the days were endless. I felt I was back in bondage, never to be free.
We knew nothing about dementia or alzheimers disease. We had to ask questions and read
books to know what was going on and how to deal with it. What a learning experience.
Time eventually took its toll on his parents and they went to a better place.

Now, it was time for us to start going on long trips, see the sights of our beautiful country.
We enjoyed our trips very much. Took our history books along so we could visit the places
we had only read about. Time went by way too fast.

My husband was diagnosed with diabetes. I had to learn how to live with the ups and downs
of blood sugars, make a whole new food menu and live with a man that did not want this
problem to keep him from doing what he wanted to do. I had to cope with a man who
suddenly realized how restricted his life had become. These past years I have had to deal
with a man who resents everything concerning his health and what is happening to him.
I am a caregiver. I am his nurse. I dispense his medications. I drive him to his doctor’s
appointments. I am on call 24/7. I am still trying to work on my to-do list.

To make our days different and enjoyable, we started taking day trips to find out about this
place we called home. We started visiting historical sites in Kern County . When possible
we would go to the coast for the week end . This past year it has been hard for him to ride
in a car for long distances. We still try to go when he is feeling okay. But as usual, each day
brings it’s own issues that have to be dealt with.

There are many books that help caregivers to deal with every day care of your loved one.
Easier said than done. My husband has resented help in any form and becomes very vocal on
the subject. Lately, my husband doesn’t like for me to get involved in anything that might
be taking up a lot of my time. I try to understand how he feels. I know that I would
react in the same way, maybe . That thought only lasts a few minutes. Something
will come up that does not meet with his approval and off we go. He is having a hard
time understanding his short term memory loss and of those senior moments when your
mind is a complete blank. He relies on me to furnish the word he is searching for. Just
lately he has been short tempered with me and but not the dog. What did I do?

I have been attending bible study classes for years. Thank heavens for my bible study
group. We select studies that will help us deal with everyday situations and what is
happening in our life. I take the time every day to do my bible study homework. This
sets the tone for me to deal with the daily agenda. This helps me to cope with my life.
God keeps me grounded and he is always here for me. One of the blessings that I
thank God for every morning is bringing my daughter and son-in-law back home
to live right across the street. They give much needed help when needed. God brought
them here to be close enough to be my back-up relief helpers.

I find writing in my journals is very therapeutic. It helps me to release my feelings that
are better off unspoken. I also write about the reactions of whatever problelms are
at the moment overwhelming. There is something about putting your feelings
on paper. But, reading is my main source of escaping from reality for a little while. I
love books. Every morning before I get that first cup of coffee, I read scripture and I
thank the Lord for all the blessings and I need him to stand by for the attitude
adjustments I will need during the day.

My husband has displaced his sense of humor, well most of it. He doesn’t look for the
humor in anything that is amusing or funny. He likes to nit pick on everything and anything.
Who cares? I try to find something to laugh about even it is not funny. Laughter releases
endorphins and that will help you feel better about everything most of the time. Some
days I succeed, other days he gives me his view on the subject. He doesn’t realize how
he reacts to a question or the tone of voice he uses when talking to others. I wish he
could accept that he is in a place where he is not going to get better or it is going away.
I know this sounds like he should just give up, but you can live in the moment and
appreciate that you are still here. When you can accept the fact that you are okay and
you are doing better that you thought, you get a sense of well being. When you get a
mind set on something and you are not receptive to other ways to help yourself, it is
hard to look forward to tomorrow. I imagine everybody has experienced this feeling
at one time or another.

Several months ago I decided to have a pity party -I was the only one there. I seem to
never have time to finish anything I get started. It was causing me to be upset a lot. I
told my self this is the time to make some changes. I was going to start by taking the time
needed to finish whatever I was working on. And if I wanted to do nothing but sit in
my rocking chair on the patio watching the world go by that would okay too. I found the
rocking chair soothes the savage beast. In order to take care of my husband, I needed to
take care of my self. There is so much help available for care givers. You have books,
the internet, organizations that will providee all kinds of services. You can pick any of
those would be helpful. It might be a good idea to run this by your loved one. I did
and I found out in no uncertain terms he did not want any help at this time. Back to square
one. I really try to keep the “everything is okay” atmoshpere in the house but there
are days when I don’t care what atmosphere is hanging around. I need a break.

Several weeks ago my husband went ballistic over somthing I suggested (can’t
remember what it was) and I really found out about his feelings concerning his
disabilities and life in general. Diabetes has taken its toll on his body. He suffers from
back pain, has neuropathy in his feet, has a hard time walking (he uses a cane or walker)
and is hard of hearing due to past working conditions. He had a session in rehab
to help stabilize his walking and it helped a little. Anyway back to the ballistic behavior,
I found myself really listening to what he was saying. He stated that he wanted to be
able to do some work around the house without someone hovering, waiting for him to fall
and that he did not need babysitters. Wow! Hello! Well, I told him I was willing to do
whatever takes to make him happy. I was going to let him do his own thing. My only words
were: you know your limits; rest when you feel tired; and yell if you fall. It was hard
at first not to check on him every thirty minutes. So I would wait two or more hours,
then take some cold drinkds out to the patio and ask him if he would like to join me as I
was taking a break. Life is a little better now. He goes to his work shop to work on
some small project, or he looks for weeks to spray, of he power washes everything. I
finally realized that he had to find some work to make him feel needed and useful
and to be a part of the family helping in his own way. I could see a look of having
accomplished something at the end of the day on his face. He was tire but it felt good.

As a caregiver, I had to stop trying to prevent future accidents and injuries and stop the
constant observation to see if he was okay. I had to re-do all my safety first plans and
backed off on my schedule of what he can do and what he cannot do. It sure made life
easier. I now leave him alone so he can do his own thing. So far, it has worked out great for
him and for me. I noticed he pays attention to how he feels, he knows when he is having
a low blood sugar, and lets me know what is going on. He has finally learned that he does
not have to finish everything he started in one day. Each day is always different, you
never know what it will bring in the way of problems. But, I have learned to roll with the
punches as my wise mother use to say.

Caregivers experience many emotions. You learn to not anticipate or plan anything for
the future because there will be a problem that will upset the apple cart. I had to
really learn to listen to my husband when he wanted to do his own thing without
supervision and let him go for it. I also listened to his opinions, but I say nothing if I
should disagree. What he is saying is what he feels and why argue over it. No big deal.

The most important lesson is learning how to enjoy the day no matter what happens.
Tomorrow will be different, maybe even better that today. Our life is short and each
day will be a good day because we can still greet the morning sun.

Being a caregiver requires you to use ways to cope with your loved one. Our vows
included “for better or for worse and I need to remember that it is a part of our
commitment to each other. It is not an easy job. This man is my soul mate, the other
half of my heart, and I want what is left of our life to be full of love and laughter. I
intend to keep doing my best to see that his needs are addressed and I will always be
there for him. To accept what I cannot change and adapt to whatever is going on each
day. To make each day special for both of us. Take time out to set in the rocking chairs
talking about the happy times in our life and to re-live the special times that mean so
much to us. To find ways to deal with the problems without causing everyone to be
upset. To listen to each other without interruption and to respect each other.

Just remember, it is up to you to make decisions that will make your life more liveable.
You need to keep your attitude positive most of the time. Even if your day is full of
frustrations, try to smile, remember something funny and agree with whatever is being
said. Each day find the time to go outside to enjoy the sunshine, see the beautiful
flowers, find a comfortable chair, sit down and enjoy the peace and quiet of the moment.

Shirley Sadocchi

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