For our second series of caregiver features, our theme is a “A Day in the Life of a Caregiver”. Our goal is to capture the life of a caregiver in one single day. Caregivers share what they do, think, and feel as they go through their day. We hope you enjoy reading these articles and can resonate with the lives of these caregivers.
Torin is from Falls Church, Virginia and has been a full time caregiver for 3 months to her mother. She runs a Instagram blog , @mymothersmemorykeeper.
A Day in Torin’s Shoes
In typical morning, I wake up at around 8 AM. Usually, my mom is still sleeping. This is the best! It gives me time to get up and read a chapter or two of a book, get some coffee and if there’s still time before she is up, I take the dog out for a quick spin around the block. This solo time in the morning has become sacred and if she happens to be awake it can throw my day out of whack.
Breakfast Brain Games
I like to have her breakfast all ready to go before she’s up. Tea, and whatever else I’ve got that morning. I try to keep it simple so there are only a few things she needs to do – pour milk, take a tea bag out, stir in syrup. This keeps her mind doing familiar tasks and is important!
While she’s eating, I like to play ‘brain games’ or activities with her. Sometimes it’s rhyming words, other times it’s alliterations or thinking of items in categories. Anything to get her mind moving. She is usually a bit groggy and slow, but we get there!
With COVID-19, it’s altered our weekly schedule a bit. She normally attends a class twice a week, but now it’s virtual. So Monday to Friday, 11:30 AM -12:30 PM she has a virtual class with a group of other people with dementia. She loves this and looks forward to it every day.
It takes me 10 min to get her set up, settled, bathroomed, with a fresh cup of tea and focused on the laptop. During this hour I usually read, do some of an online course, message friends, or update my caregiver instagram blog.
Our morning routine is important and there are usually no surprises!
We have lunch between 1 PM and 2 PM. I try to make lots of healthy snacks and finger food items to go together so she can be engaged with her food. Something crunchy, something soft, something that needs a fork. This keeps her senses engaged and makes sure she has a balanced diet!
Yesterday we had some tomato soup with a bit of pasta in it, baby carrots, a sliced up apple with peanut butter, and some cheese. Some days I make turkey roll-ups, with lettuce and cheese tomato. She likes to roll them herself and dips it in mustard. I water down her juice a bit to be sure she’s hydrated. And sometimes I’ll make her an herbal tea when she’s done.
With the current COVID-19, we are a bit stuck but making it work. There may be a virtual doctor appointment, which actually is better than in-person because she despises going to the doctor and it’s always a bit to-do to get her there. So this is actually a plus!
If there’s no appointment, I try to sit her down to color or paint for a couple hours. I have her choose between photos online to paint, and I set it up on the iPad for her. I also help mix and pick colors for her. Her vision is so-so and she is color blind so I have to help her.
After this, it’s usually 3-ish PM and we get out for a nice long walk with the dog. It’s a bit of a chore to get out the door. There are so many things to do – change, get water, harness the dog, make sure she’s warm or cool enough, and put on the AngelSense GPS tracker. She gets overwhelmed and I try to make it as streamlined as possible. Sometimes, she gets agitated and it impacts and permeates through to the beginning of the walk. After 10-20 minute into the walk, her mood usually lifts and we chat and enjoy all the fresh air.
We try to walk for at least an hour, sometimes two! She is very fit and agile and this is her favorite thing to do. It also helps her sleep better at night, and ensures that she drinks loads because my ‘rule’ is that the water bottle must be empty by the time we are back. We like to sing songs on the wall, stop and read historical signs, and smell flowers.
Dinner for Two
Dinner is sometimes stressful. Mom is a bit too slow to chop everything up, and she gets irritated when she has nothing to do. I usually give her a task, like grating cheese, to keep her occupied and to feel useful. Sometimes I set up her coloring near me in the kitchen, or I put on a tv show about animals. This gives me space to cook up a meal. I keep it fresh and healthy and vegetarian to make sure she is getting all the nutrition she needs!
After dinner, mom enjoys tidying up and doing the dishes. She spends around an hour doing this even if there isn’t much to wash up. I like to catch up on the news when she’s doing this, or I call a friend.
We then either play a game – Rummikub, Backgammon, Qwirkle, Bananagrams – or watch a film/series. Mom loves games and is still really good at them, although I always need to remind her of the rules throughout. If we watch tv or a movie, I make sure to stop it where she still has time to read a little before bed. I’ve found that the TV is too stimulating and impacts her sleep! So a bit of reading after helps set her off, unless she falls asleep during it.
I am usually relieved to be through a day and in my own space alone. I reflect on what my moms overalls mood was, why it was like that, what went well, etc. I can usually relax once I’m in bed if I know she’s fast asleep. I try to meditate or stretch in bed, and make sure that I’ve given myself 15 minutes to wind down and breathe. There’s so much to keep track of in one day that it’s normally always overwhelming, even if the day has been excellent.
You can follow Torin through her caregiving journey on her Instagram.
Read last week’s caregiver feature about Allison, who has been a caregiver to her husband for 10 years.