It’s Wednesday morning. It’s one of three days a week that a sitter comes to the house to stay with Kate. She’ll be here four hours. During that time, I will go to the Y followed by meeting my friend Mark for coffee. That will leave me with another thirty to forty minutes to run errands. I know and read about caregivers who would love to have this kind of freedom. It means a lot to me as well. I only engaged a sitter when I no longer felt comfortable leaving Kate alone. If I didn’t have a sitter, I would be much more restricted. Best of all is the fact that Kate has accepted a sitter and seems to enjoy having someone with her while I am gone.
So why is it that I still don’t feel completely comfortable? I find this discomfort hard to describe, and I’m not going to attempt an explanation for it. At the moment, it is only something I want to acknowledge. It begins in the morning of the days we have a sitter. For example, it is now a little after 8:30. Kate is still sleeping. I don’t know how long she will sleep. I do know that I am going to leave her for four hours starting at 1:00 p.m. The longer she sleeps the less time we will have together today. I also know that when I tell her that I am going to the Y or to Rotary or a meeting, she often responds with, “What am I going to do?” At that moment, I have a tinge of guilt about leaving her. I am typically rescued from this burden quickly because I never tell her I am leaving until right before or at the time the sitter arrives. That leads me to say something like, “Well, you and Mary (or Anita, the other sitter) can stay here or you can go someplace like Panera.” When the word “Panera” comes out of my mouth, she jumps on that right away even if we have just returned from there. By the way, that happens frequently on Mondays when I take her there (or remain there) for lunch. On a couple of occasions the sitter has arrived early before we are home. This past Monday Kate didn’t even come in the house. She just got out of my car and into the sitter’s car for the trip back to Panera.
Another pattern has developed in connection with having a sitter. As soon as the sitter leaves, Kate gets her iPad and sometimes her cup and comes to me in the kitchen. If she says anything at all, it is, “I’m ready.” That means she assumes we are going back to Panera or to Barnes & Noble. Then I get my computer and/or iPad and a cup, and we are off again. The afternoon visit is a short one because we usually go to dinner between 5:45 and 6:00.
As you can tell, the sitter is working out well for Kate and for me too. I wonder if some of my discomfort is not wanting to hand over any of her care to someone else. That makes me think of my dad. He cared for my mom without in-home care except for a short trial that my brother and I pushed him into. I know there were other factors, but financial considerations were among them. Now that I am walking this same road, I suspect part of his unwillingness to accept help was his desire to do it himself. He might have thought no one else could do it with the same sense of compassion and joy. I can identify with that.