I've been a caregiver for my husband since about 2001 when he began having angina. My caregiving responsibilities have progressively increased and his health has progressively declined since he had triple heart bypass surgery in 2003. After the surgery, he had atrial fibrillation, which stayed. In addition to heart problems, he developed COPD from years of smoking. These are the biggies, but through the years there have been numerous diagnoses added from arthritis to gout and several hospital stays. He's had several strokes as well.
Our marriage was one of those May-December marriages. My husband is 38 years older than I am. We’ve been married for 22 years and have one daughter together. Our daughter is now grown, but she was only eight years old when he had heart surgery. Trying to raise her and preserve some semblance of normalcy amidst a multitude of healthcare crises through the years was challenging. In her teen years, she helped with many caregiving responsibilities as we had limited outside support from friends or family.
Besides being a spouse and mother, I’m a nurse, so caregiving responsibilities have always naturally fallen to me in the family. I’ve mainly always worked in nursing less than part time, so I could be a family caregiver. In addition to being the primary caregiver for my spouse, I’ve done long distance caregiving for my mother and grandmother at times. I keep my eyes and ears open as there is always something new to learn on this caregiving journey and every time it seems I’ve got things figured out, something else seems to happen.
Last year after my husband fell and got a compound fracture, as well as his heart function had decreased (not related to the fall, just happened), we had to learn to be willing to accept outside help. For the first time, we needed home health care. I truly appreciate community resources that helped(and continue to help) me be able to remain a caregiver and help me to keep him at home where he wants to stay. Another challenge though is being a caregiver in a rural area, which is isolating at times and I’ve found makes resources not as easily available. Caregiving can be difficult, but I continue on the best I can and caring for my husband has become more of a team effort.