There were times when I missed her terribly, then exhaustion surrounded me and I slept. I slept without having to get up during the night to help her find the bathroom. I slept without thinking about how we were going to get through the next day. I slept knowing that someone else was caring for my wife and I could finally rest.
And so passed a week away with a friend, a week when our kids traveled from other countries to care for their mother and her dementia and give me a much needed break.
I didn’t realize how worn out I was until I awoke after one day away, shuffled to the dining table, and heard my friend say, “man, you look really tired.”
It had crept up on me like an unseen fog, surrounded me during the previous weeks and months. I knew it was there but I couldn’t call it out. I was my wife’s caregiver, she needed me, and our kids, lived in other worlds far away. But one day, when I blew up over some triviality, I knew I’d hit the “help needed” mark. I asked, the kids came, and I made my getaway.
I’m just one of over 15 million Americans who are caring for the estimated 5 million persons suffering from Alzheimer’s or some other form of dementia, all of us dealing with the emotional, mental, physical and financial stress of caring for someone whose mind is deteriorating in front of us.
We all need help. We all need a caregiver’s vacation.
I certainly did.