When the Caregiver Becomes the Patient

I wanted to share my recent experience transforming from caregiver to patient.  Until Jan. 11, 2018, I’ve been my father’s primary caregiver since his wife passed away in Nov. 2014.  My husband has been helping with my father, and coming to doctor’s appointments developed a wonderful relationship with my dad.  I’ve tried to manage everything, including shopping, doing the laundry he’d prefer I do and handling all matters associated with his care at his assisted living facility. 

I had put off the elective surgery on my foot and decided to finally get it over with.  Being off my feet is not something I’m good at.  I’m admittedly a bad patient and don’t have time to be down, but this surgery made me slow down and let someone else take the controls. 

My husband quickly told me to “stop being a bad patient” and let him take care of me.  I relented and right then and there. The Caregiver became the Patient. 

Let me tell you, living in a three-level townhouse and not being able to put weight on my foot was a real challenge.  I found that walking with crutches where there are stairs is just dangerous (at least in my case) and began to crawl around house and up the stairs and reverted to early childhood when you went down the stairs on your behind.  My husband was great supporting me on one side, helping me hop around the house, but scooting around the floor on my hands and knees or behind was the quickest way to move.  I learned from my limited time being off my feet what others may be facing with permanent physical challenges and respect their fortitude. 

On another note, I don’t like taking pain killers.  I’ve found they make me nauseous or make my head feel funny and I don’t like feeling like I’m not in control.  My son is a paramedic and he reminded me to manage my pain and don’t let it manage me, especially shortly after surgery.  After two days, I just couldn’t stand how the pills made me feel.  My husband told me, “You don’t get a medal for not taking a pill when you need it.”  I knew he was right.  I started taking an over-the-counter pain medication, kept my foot iced and elevated and it seemed to help. 

My husband helped with my father during the time I was down and was an amazing caregiver to us both.  It was a humbling experience letting someone else be in control, but loved how much he wanted to take care of me.  As my father’s caregiver, I learned that I’m not the only one who can take care of him and I can let someone else take the lead when I can’t and it will be okay.  I’m truly blessed.

Carla Vagnini

More Articles Written by Carla

I live outside Washington, DC with my husband Paul and two cats. I have been in public service for almost half of my life. I treasure spending time with my husband, family (both near and far) and two cats. I truly believe that everything happens for a reason and share this belief with my loved ones...that every day is a gift, never go to bed angry with the ones you love and life is just too short. After helping family members through the devastating loss of their loved ones, I took the time write this short book. While dealing with the shock and devastation of death after an unexpected passing or a lingering cruel illness, my husband and I learned valuable information and insights with each experience that I wanted to sharing with others. I found that the help and support provided after the funeral, when all of the family and friends had returned to their homes, was equally as critical as the support provided both during the illnesses and at the funeral. I learned that no matter how much time you might have to “prepare”, there are just too many issues to address and calls to make. All of which are far too many for the grieving loved one to manage on their own. I hopes that when you are faced with providing support to a loved one who has sadly experienced their own devastating loss that the information in my book serves as a guide to help you weather the storm with a little more ease and comfort.

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