Jim has been caring for his wife, Susan, continually for three years since she had heart surgery and then a stroke with multiple complications, but actually, he has been caring for her for 64 years while she battled severe bi-polar depression. Jim has been a long-time caregiver, who also cared for a mother whose husband was an alcoholic and wasn’t around much. As an only child, he became a caregiver at a very young age.
After spending 59 days in the ICU after heart surgery and a stroke, Jim brought Susan home with Hospice, and she wasn’t expected to live long. Susan spent a year on a hospital bed in the living room unable to feed herself, so he fed her himself and took care of her every need. After her strength came back, she was stricken with cancer and underwent 15 radiation treatments. Throughout all of this, Jim kept pleading with God to give him more time with her. God answered his prayers!
Susan again survived, but experienced memory loss from the stroke and radiation, so Jim currently tells her stories of trips they took together and family vacations. She relishes those conversations. “It’s similar to taking care of a child,” he says, “And it’s one person doing a two person job.” It’s a 24/7 process. Although Susan sleeps 16-17 hours a day, Jim isn’t able to nap. Instead he uses that time to plan meals and do light housework.
Jim faced his own health problems and was in the ICU himself on oxygen for several weeks. When he returned home, Jim faced perhaps the most difficult time as he was still trying to care for her while he was sick himself. While their children all offer help, the majority of the care falls on him. Watching Susan become frailer brings on feelings of fear and hopelessness. He feels guilty when he leaves her even to go grocery shopping, and she worries when he isn’t there. Even though grocery shopping and occasional meals out with his children or a friend are his only time out, Jim still feels that guilt.
Jim doesn’t want Susan to feel like she is a burden, even though the situation is difficult both physically and mentally on both of them. The process of taking Susan to frequent doctor visits is completely exhausting for them.
The one thing that makes caring for Susan easier is her gratitude for everything Jim does for her. She is a gracious, kind, and loving woman who says thank you for each little thing all day long. Despite a very difficult life, she has always maintained her strong faith and is loved by many. Jim and Susan make a habit of praying together daily.
How Does He Cope With It All?
Jim says, “I pray out loud to my Lord every day. I thank Him continually for the day and for watching over us. I love my wife, children, and grandchildren, but first I love God. He is my greatest love!”
What Can I Do This Week to Face Guilt, Fear and Hopelessness?
- I can read Scripture for consolation and pick up a good devotional to give me hope and calm my fears.
- I can ask friends and family to visit more often and try to get out for short periods while the health aides are at our home, so that I don’t feel so guilty leaving her.
Scripture Verse: Joshua 1:9 “I hereby command you: Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
Prayer: Dear Father, we know that You are always with us. Help me each day to thank You for the blessings of the day. Thank You for another day with my loved one – for this gift of Your protection! Give me the strength I need to get through just one day at a time. Help me to feel less guilty and fearful, and instead be hopeful so that I can offer the best care possible.