My routine these days is pretty much the same day after day. I wake up, go out and grab a coffee at my favorite local coffee shop, come back home and do some client work for a few hours, take a sanity stroll in the afternoon, work some more, and then head to see my grandmother at the end of the day to feed her dinner. But for the last ten days, my routine has been anything but normal.
Last week, I received a call from the long-term care facility that takes care of my grandmother, informing me that they believed she had shingles. As far as I was aware, she had never had shingles in the past, but had been complaining of itchiness for a while now. We suspected the itch could be a reaction from the daily pain medications she’s been taking, but out of caution, the nurse let me know that she would be moved to isolation and treated with medication for shingles. After much debate on my end (along with doing online research and talking to the nursing staff) as to how I would visit her in isolation to make sure she was okay, I decided that I would suit up in full PPE and check on her for a few minutes each day, which is what I did for the better part of the past week. However, my brief visits to the isolation ward meant more time for me in terms of “decontaminating” once I got home. By the end of the week, I was feeling drained and starting to get a little concerned about what I was walking into each time I visited the isolation floor. Out of an abundance of caution and after finding out that she would be out of isolation today, I decided to take the weekend off from visits.
One of the hardest things about being a caregiver for me personally is the guilt I feel on the rare occasions when I can’t visit her. Unfortunately, with dementia, it’s impossible to explain my absence, but even with her cognitive decline, she still worries about my whereabouts. While it was hard to be away from her for two days, I knew she was being well taken care of and that she wouldn’t want me to jeopardize my health to visit her.
Instead, I spent my weekend having no plans and not sticking to a schedule. I stayed in bed late, made a delicious brunch, took a long hike through a nature trail, explored a new barn to ride at, and enjoyed having a slight change to my routine. In a way, it was just what I needed. But after a little break, I’m looking forward to returning to my nightly visits today and spending quality time with my grandmother again.