I just got back from a visit with Barry at his care center. I try hard to get there each day. It used to be that when I was there, I couldn’t wait to leave. And when I wasn’t there, I couldn’t wait to get there to see if he was okay. I am pretty sure most people in my situation have felt the same way.
At first, I hated the smell in the place and I kept my head down as I raced to his room. Early on, I was so thankful he had a place live that I didn’t speak up much or ask questions. I would get to his room and sit, sometimes gagging from the smell. I hated going there and found myself becoming bitter and crabby! I realized that if I didn’t change my attitude, I would be of no help to Barry or myself.
What I have learned
But it’s been over year now and his care center is no longer a dreaded place that I have to visit each day. I wish to God he was not there, but here are a few things I have learned:
Barry is my husband — granted a stranger from the old Barry. He is to be loved and cared for. Everyone deserves that! Once I accepted this, it became much easier to visit.
I have learned to get used to the smell. The staff work hard to keep the place clean, but it is what it is — people wear diapers and sometimes they smell. When Barry gets changed, I ask the nurse to spray his room after. They have some cool stuff that really masks the odors. I also have had to remind myself that I am a grown up (at age 61) and not a wimp or a kid with a weak stomach.
Get to know people and ask questions
I have learned to speak up! If Barry is wet or seems uncomfortable, I ask for help. If he seems really agitated, I tell the nurse to give him something to help relax him. The staff at the care center never resist helping him at any time, and it gets easier for me to ask the more I get to know everyone. I have learned that a care center can be a very interesting place if you take time to notice!
When I started to look around and got to know people, it became more fun to visit. I stop and greet one lady every day even though our conversation is always the same. I say, “Hello.” She says, “You are here every day.” I say, “Yes, I am.” She says, “Who do you see?” I say, “My husband.” And she always says, “Oh, you are so young.”
I also greet the gal who sometimes wears Barry’s shirts. When I get to Barry’s floor, I say the same thing to the TV crowd: “The gangs all here!” I get a few smiles. Then one guy always reports on what Barry has been up too when I am not there, which is always good to know. I have seen a few romances bloom. I have noticed rooms that are suddenly empty. I am amazed that a 100-year-old woman always remembers my name!
I have learned mealtime can be quite entertaining. I still can’t bear to eat the food, but it is fun to visit with the aides who feed the residents. Conversations with Barry can be a bit odd especially when he repeats everything he hears around him, including some song lyrics he picks up from the CD playing. I also noticed when I last fed Barry that I didn’t feed him what I personally don’t like, such as the brussels sprouts he had on his plate last week.
I have learned to ask questions about all the paperwork I get from the state and the care center. I used to be nervous and upset when I didn’t understand something I got in the mail. Now I just bring it to the business manager and ask whether I should be worried. She always takes time to explain everything — all I had to do was ask.
I didn’t expect to be doing this at my age. But it’s what we have on our plate, so I am trying really hard to figure out a way to find joy in each day. I have to admit that I kind of like the person I am becoming with all I have learned. But it’s sad because I can’t share it with the person who has helped me learn it.