A Day in the Life of a Caregiver

Caregivers have a busy and varied life. This is an example of what a day might be like.

A Client and Caregiver

Emily had two clients scheduled for the day The first was Marsha M.  Marsha is 86 and lucid most of the time, though sometimes she may lose touch with reality. Fortunately, her dementia has not progressed very far. Em gets to Marsha’s at 8:30 and after a greeting makes the two of them some coffee. Marsha is still in bed, a little tired after a bad night. She stays in bed and drinks her coffee while Em sits on a chair, and they discuss how they are.

Marsha is delighted to see her caregiver. They have been a pair for about five months now and are very comfortable with each other. Em runs a bath for her client and then helps her undress and get into the perfectly warm tub. While Marsha enjoys her bath, Emily who is 42, makes the bed and sets the room to rights.

She boils an egg and when it is done goes to help Marsha from the bath. She helps Marsha dress and helps her through to the lounge of the apartment.  Emily toasts some bread and butters it and gives that and the egg to Marsha for breakfast. It doesn’t seem much, but even that is sometimes too much for the elderly client.

Breakfast finished, it’s time for medication. Once that is over, Emily prepares a Skype session. Marsha is confused until she is reminded that she has a video call with her grandson in Nebraska. Though they have done this often, the client always marvels at how she can connect to anywhere in the world from her place in Charleston.

After Marsha has spoken to Zach, the two ladies settle in for a game of crokinole. The game is Marsha’s choice. It has the advantage of helping her focus and keeping her fine motor skills in trim a bit, but more than anything it is just fun, and she always breaks out in peals of laughter when a disk goes careening off the board. This woman may be 86 and frail, but she is without a doubt fun and Emily loves that about her.

While they play, Marsha who was born before World War II started to recall growing up after the war, but sometimes seems to see the world war and the Korean War as the same event. After they finish playing, Em cuts her client’s nails before heating some stew and rice for her.  She leaves the lunch to one side and gathers her stuff.

At 12:30 Em, says goodbye to Marsha and goes to a deli to get a sandwich and a kale smoothie. Her next client is Jessie S, who she has only met twice before. She is 27 and became blind after an accident at the chemical plant where she used to work. She wants nothing more than to be self-sufficient.

The caregiver arrives at her second client and helps her to the car. Jessie has an appointment at a center for the blind where she is learning to read Braille. When they arrive, Emily helps Jess by handing her the white cane and monitors her carefully as she makes her way into the center. The lesson is 45 minutes and Em sits away from her client and the tutor.

She remembers the first day she met her blind client, who by the way has no vision at all, not even 5%. They played chess using a special chess set. The white squares are recessed, and the black squares are raised. The black pieces have pointed tops so they can be told apart from the white ones. Each piece has a peg and each square has a hole. The blind player is allowed to touch the pieces to know where each one is and the touch move rule only comes into effect when a piece is lifted out of the peg hole. Emily lost all three games. In her defense, she was never a good chess player whereas Jessie had played in the state championships when she was still sighted.

With the Braille tutoring complete, the client and caregiver go back to Jessie’s place. The final task for the day is kitchen orientation. With gentle instructions and a watchful eye, Em guides Jess to where the coffee, the sugar, and the mugs are and Jess, making some mess (but less than before) puts coffee and sugar into mugs and then fills the kettle and switches it on. For the moment, Emily does the pouring. On the whole, the effort is successful.

Jessie mentions she wants to try and play goalball. Em thinks that could be fun. If she wears a blindfold she could try her hand at the game as well.

Four o’clock and Em leaves. She will see Jessie again in two days.

Emily’s day is over but at 5:30 she gives Marsha a call just to check on her. This reflects Lucky Dove’s view that it is not enough to care for, but that we also need to care about.