Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Stroke changes everything

My husband John continues to improve after he had a stroke in January. Here he is sitting outside on the deck, enjoying one of these perfect springtime days.

There is no question that life has been different since he became ill. At first he was unable to do much of anything without help. Slowly though, he is starting to do things for himself again. I believe he will become not just the person he used to be, but a far better one.

The changes going on aren't just his. 

I'm changing too. I've had to do things I haven't done before, or at least not in a long time. The last time I helped someone put on their shoes and socks was when my kids were small. My youngest just turned 34 this week, so it has been a while. Taking care of another person is a new kind of intimacy. 

Thank goodness John can now put on his own shoes. He can dress himself and all the other things that are needed. He is becoming personally independent. If he wants to eat or drink something, he can handle that. He even took care of dinner one night. It was a matter of opening a jar and heating raviolis, but I reveled in not having to cook one night. Yesterday he did the dishes in the dishwasher. That was a real treat for me. I have no idea how two people can use so many dishes. Slowly, there are more and more things he can accomplish on his own. 

I found it surprisingly natural and easy to return to caregiver mode. My mom skills came back without even thinking about it. I must clarify--the return was easy; not the doing. Not only is John much bigger and harder to handle than a little kid, especially, when he towers over me by almost a whole foot, but I'm so much older now. My energy level and stamina isn't what it once was. I find myself totally exhausted. 

I'm now doing my chores and his, but ya know what, it has been really good for me. I was getting to the point where my lifestyle was completely sedentary. That isn't healthy. All the things I love to do--computer work, sewing, watching television and movies, keep me seated. Now, I'm doing chores that keep me moving. I've lost 30 lbs. So has John, since he has now joined me in eating healthy. He eats much better than before. He's probably healthier than he ever has been. John never ate vegetables and beer was his only beverage. Now he eats fresh fruit and vegetables all the time, whether he likes them or not. He's had one beer since he got sick. 

I save money now because I'm not buying the junk food he used to crave. I prepare a meal and we both eat it. While buying organic food is more expensive, the benefits are so worth it. Believe it or not, it is cheaper to eat that than all the prepared frozen food, chips and other snacks.

Slowly I'm regaining my independent nature, which is something I've lost over the years. John was doing all the errands and most of the shopping. He liked getting out of the house. I didn't. I'm a home body. I enjoyed putzing around the house. There is always something to do. But now, I'm also enjoying interactions at the grocery store or with friends I meet as I do all the shopping, and all the errands. John can't drive right now, so I do that too. I'm starting to enjoy it again. 

We just have to get John back to his prior self. I know that will take time. It is frustrating for him, but he knows he just has to work hard at it. I remain hopeful that this will turn around.