Detachment: Can you do it?


Journal entry, January 8, 2016:

Was thinking a little about Debbie today. She was a girlfriend around 1999-2000, and today’s her 53rd birthday. How time flies when you’re having fun.

Debbie worked a lot of different jobs, from taxi driving to construction to working with special-needs kids. But she was in the nursing-home biz for a while. A CNA, I think. She loved it and she was a real people person, but there was a problem. She tended to get attached to her people.

Her mom told me about it. A problem with people in nursing homes is they tend to die, and when you’re attached to them a little bit of yourself dies. That’s what happened to Debbie. She finally got to where she couldn’t work any more.

Okay. Situation was different for her. She was a hireling, and she didn’t know her people before taking care of them. Not quite the same as taking care of a close family member, but some things remain the same.

I think it’s a thing of detachment. Maybe it’s my journo training, but I’ve always been able to suspend the feelings, step back from the situation and take care of business. When wiping Mom’s butt I never looked at her face. Made it easier to forget for a minute who I was taking care of.


Can everybody do that? Probably not. But it’s one of those things, like a sense of humor, that can keep you from going nutso on the job.


The making of a family caregiver


When I left California in 1990, I swore there was only one thing that would bring me back there to live.

On May 2, 2014, that thing happened and I came back from South Carolina.

I became caregiver to two aged parents. And I had no idea what the Sam Hill I was supposed to do.

There are not, like, college classes to teach you all this stuff. You’ll find courses through some nonprofits (think Alzheimers Association here), but you end up learning as you go.

But there I was, taking care of both parents. Dad’s now 87, a two-time stroke victim and easing into late-stage dementia. Mom was 85, immobile, incontinent, and determined to shut her business down. She did pass away six months after my arrival, hastening Dad’s decline somewhat.

Okay. I’m not the only one in this position. It’s a new occupation for the baby boom generation. People are living longer and many folks my age are acting as caregivers.

I’m not alone in this. But sometimes it feels like it. From the many I’ve talked to, almost every family caregiver feels alone in this.

Meanwhile I’m making the stuff up as I go along. Learning about the mechanics of dementia. Picking the brains of those who are in the same boat as I am. Keeping in touch with my friends from back home; they’re always an encouragement to me. Doing what I can to cope.

This blog gets a little personal sometimes. I’ll mine my journal for material and share an excerpt or two, but most of this is based on practicalities. Stuff I learned, most likely the quick-and-dirty way.

(Note: I will concentrate on coping mechanisms and various ways a caregiver can do the job without losing his sanity. Nothing here should be construed as medical advice, so don’t waste your time looking for it. I’m not qualified for that, I don’t want to risk the life of your loved one with crappy advice, and I don’t want to get my bee-hind sued.)