What’s Important?

My mother was fat, though she lost weight shortly before she died.  My father, by contrast, was always thin and muscular.  Yes, he drank like the Navy seaman he’d been and smoked 1-2 packs a day, but he was strong and healthy.  He gained some weight when he retired and quit smoking, but not much.  Heck, he’s  lost some in the last few years. Why?

He wasn’t exercising as much.  Turns out he’s anemic.  Why?  Bleeding from a cancerous tumor.  Oh, and he has some short-term memory problems, which means he shouldn’t live alone.

I’ve been spending a fair amount of time in hospitals and nursing homes and doctor’s offices lately.  I keep expecting to hear “Oh, and you should lose weight because ___________” …. but I’m not.

Maybe it’s because I’m not the one who’s sick.

Maybe it’s because the main risk factor for his cancer is smoking, not weight.

Maybe it’s because I don’t have a history of drinking, and he does.

I can say it’s been interesting dealing with the medical profession in a situation where it’s not about my weight.

I can also say this sort of experience can help focus on what’s important to me.  I’ve alluded in the past to not having the world’s best relationship with my parents, but I’m also not willing to just walk away.  Making the time to deal with this has been challenging.  It’s also made me focus on organizing my life to help me stay sane enough to do what needs doing — priorities like

  • The man of the house.
  • Close friends.
  • Work.
  • Eating regularly.
  • Sleep.
  • Exercise.

These are things that help me stay sane and to have the energy to deal with the other stuff.  (Yes, there’s a reason I’ve been posting about managing stress lately.)  Even so, it’s still been getting me down.  About 2 months ago I saw my ARNP with “Hi, here’s what’s going on.”  We determined that yes, I’m having insomnia, anxiety, and depression symptoms.  She started me on ambien (to help me sleep) and celexa (for depression and anxiety).   The ambien helped almost immediately; the celexa, as is usual for SSRIs, took longer to kick in.   I am feeling more able to cope now, which is good.

Has this changed my priorities or my sense of what’s important?  Yes.  And no.  As is common when I’m stressed, I’m more focused on self-care; this has all narrowed my focus, often to just  “what tasks I need to get done today” and “what I need (to take of myself) so I CAN get through today.”   But the things that I most want to do, and that I find most rewarding, haven’t changed.

12 thoughts on “What’s Important?

  1. Just a quick “hey” — and “hang in there, kitten” — you have a lot on your plate and your continued focus on taking care of yourself is great.
    You are a treasure, and I’m glad you are focused on preserving what’s important to you.
    Sending you love and peace…

  2. Health/independence issues in elderly parents are never easy – but more so, perhaps, when things haven’t been great with them in the past. Been there, done that (and yes, weight issues did also come into it, although my mother was thin, so the shame was coming from a whole different place). You’re absolutely right – looking after you has to come first. Wishing you strength to get through this time and deal with all the stuff. Take care…

    • Health/independence issues in elderly parents are never easy – but more so, perhaps, when things haven’t been great with them in the past.

      Indeed. It’s interesting seeing the reactions when I say him moving in with me is not an option. The social worker-types mostly seem relieved, I think because they’ve seen people who are all “But of course mom/dad/gran will live with me!” and then burn out, or who rationalize “Oh he’ll be fine while I’m at work/school/etc”, or who think stairs aren’t an issue, or or or. Others are more … surprised or confused.

      Then there’s surprise that I work. Which, argh.

  3. *Hugs* I am so happy to hear that you are managing the stresses of life and work and everything in between. I know I have a difficult time prioritizing because everything seems so necessary. Happy thoughts sent your way. Take care of YOU! <3

  4. Best of luck to you with this caregiving journey. Wishing you and your father and your whole family well.

  5. You know it’s really easy to forget about taking care of yourself when dealing with illness in a parent. And I think it may be even harder when the relationship has been rocky to begin with. There’s just so much more… stuff bubbling away under the surface. You’re definitely on the right track here. Caretakers often burn out when they put themselves too far down on their list of people/things to take care of, and then they’re (not to put too fine a point on the matter) no damn use to anyone at all.

    Keep taking care of you. You’re well worth it.

  6. I did the elderly parent caregiver thing too. It’s hard, I won’t lie. But it’s also a huge opportunity to help heal some of the past issues and come to some kind of increased peace with it all. It will not be easy, but see it for the healing opportunity it can be.

    Taking care of yourself during all of this is vastly important, and having back-up help for when you need a break is also extremely useful. Keeping at least some exercise going and finding relaxation options can also help.

    I found it really important to go to all the medical appts and to watch the medications like a hawk. I caught numerous errors by just being alert and keeping a list of her medical conditions and the medications/doses for them on me at all times. Doctors and hospitals don’t always LIKE an involved child who asks questions and actively advocates for a parent, but it really is important to be involved. Don’t be afraid to change providers if needed.

    Especially when parents are in hospital, they need an advocate there with them as much as you can manage, doublechecking the treatment plan and the meds. It’s not easy for staff to keep track of changing patients and their needs, and it’s way too easy to make mistakes. A patient advocate, right there asking questions and checking charts if needed, is really key.

    Be sure all your legal paperwork (Healthcare Power of Attorney, Financial Power of Attorney, Living Will, whatever is appropriate to the situation) is done if at all possible. These can be VERY important, so get them done sooner than later.

    It’s a hard journey, but it’s the right one. Even when the parent is difficult and offering support is not easy. Hang in there and just do the best you can. No one can ask more.

  7. I’m so glad you have started meds that help you sleep and feel better. Without sleep, I can’t do anything–and anxiety is terribly hard to deal with. The best thing is that you are feeling better!

  8. Pingback: Fat People Die Sooner, Right? « Living ~400lbs

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