Thursday, June 15, 2017

Carers Week

It's Carers Week, and we're supposed to acknowledge those who have cared for us during our illness.
I would like to acknowledge my carer: Me.
My ex would leave me alone for 18 hours at a time so he wouldn't have to provide care – no matter how many times I reminded him, he wouldn't even leave a sandwich and a pitcher of water next to the bed for me (and then he wonders why he's an ex!). When I was deathly ill, organs beginning to shut down, I wanted to go home to die, and my mother reminded me that growing up I had been told that I was out as soon as I graduated; she wasn't going to take care of me, either, even though I didn't really need nursing, I just needed someone to cook meals (which she was already doing for herself and Dad).
I tried hiring people, but they only wanted to do what they wanted to do; a man was happy to drive me wherever I wanted to go, but cooking and cleaning and caregiving were "women's work" and he was not willing to do that. A woman who claimed that she had been paid caregiver for a woman with Alzheimer's had a very different idea of what the job entailed than I did; it turned out that she was merely the daytime babysitter while the family went to work – the patient's daughter did all the cooking and cleaning, so all she was required to do was make sure the patient didn't burn down the house and periodically coax the patient to go potty. She thought it was outrageous that I expected her to make meals for me and claimed not to know how to load a dishwasher, even after I'd showed her how, much less doing any of the other chores. She thought the job was merely sitting on the couch reading a book or watching TV, not actual work.
I wrote a blog post years ago pointing out that the books about living with CFS are written by those who have family caring for them, not those who are using every ounce of energy to buy and prepare food, and thus give a very different impression of how tough it is.
The story would sound much more heartbreaking with tales of "I haven't eaten in a week because I cannot get out of bed to get to the kitchen" than it does with "I wasn't feeling well, so my daughter made me a lovely homemade chicken soup." Or "I don't recall the last time I bathed because I don't have the energy to get to the bathroom" versus "my husband drew my bath, carried me to the tub, gently washed me, and carried me back to bed."
When I'm up to it, I will hardboil a dozen eggs, and I keep cooked shrimp in the freezer in single-serve packets, only takes a couple minutes to pull out two eggs and a baggie of shrimp for a high-protein lunch.
The problem is the days that I can't get out of bed without falling to the floor. Eventually I realized that I could stack several cases of bottled water and nutrition shakes next to the bed, and keep things like PopTarts and cereal bars on the bedside table for the days that I couldn't make it to the kitchen. Or make PBJ sandwiches.
Then someone mentioned taking her lunch to work in a mini-crockpot; takes 45 minutes to an hour to heat leftovers (or a can of something). For $20 I got one to keep next to the bed with a variety of canned goods, so now I can eat soup, stew, vegetables, etc., not just cereal bars, when I'm not able to get to the kitchen. A can of chicken and a can of carrots, plus the liquid from each, and part of a bottled water, and I have chicken soup. If I line the container with foil, I don't have to use my precious bottled water to wash it between meals.
I have experimented with other options, some more successful than others. I can put eggs in and leave them for a couple hours to get hardboiled (because the water never gets to boiling, so you have to cook them longer), but trying to make an omelette was not as successful. Meat needs to be pre-cooked, since this mini-crockpot is intended to reheat, not cook; but you can use canned chicken or thick-sliced roast beef from the deli counter.
If you are making something really dense like couscous, heat the water first, or else the center will be cold. Instant rice works better than regular.
Last week I attempted casserole. Heat the water, then put in the dry noodles, canned tuna, and veggies for a few minutes until the noodles were done. Not bad.
Of course, all my cooking creativity doesn't solve the problem of getting the house cleaned or the trash taken out, but it solves the immediate problem of getting enough nutrition to stay alive. I can take out the trash on a good day.

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