Caring for the Caregiver?
This post is about me but the thread is for anyone in a caregiving role.
For the past 2+ years I've been Primal, with varying degrees of adherence. It's really changed my health for the better and I'm quite the proselytizer to friends, family and patients. My mother was my best convert. She was 100 percent Primal as of August 2011. She became super fit and had great energy.
But early this summer she started dropping a lot of weight and became quite weak. She was still teaching, as well as taking care of my stepfather, who has advanced Parkinson's with dementia. She was under so much stress. Her friends thought she had an eating disorder, because she'd been so pleased to lose weight in the fall, and her eating habits seemed weird to them. I thought she was just under a lot of stress. I didn't see her for about 6 weeks because she taught at night and I worked during the day. When I saw her, on the day she was diagnosed with Lung Cancer, I was shocked at her appearance. She was a skeleton.
I've taken a leave of absence from work and am staying with Mom part time to take care of her (aides take care of my stepfather). My sister, who lives in another country, has spent the last 6 weeks in the house with Mom, which allowed me to spend most nights at my apartment. My sister is leaving this week, which means I'll need to move in, which I'm dreading. Mom has Stage IV lung cancer with metastasize to the brain and spine. She has had total brain and lung radiation in the past month. There is a small possibility that she'll have some additional brain radiation. She has just been enrolled in hospice. She already has a significant amount of brain injury; it's not clear if it's from the brain mets or the radiation.
I'm really struggling to maintain a healthy lifestyle. For the first few weeks, my friend and I made all of Mom's food. Everything was organic, and largely Primal. And then suddenly her tastes and personality changed, and now she only wants sweets and baked goods. The hospice nurse says let her have whatever she wants, which I agree with. We are not trying to prolong her life at this point, just keep her comfortable and safe. Now, even if I offer her a choice of formerly favorite meals, she typically will reject them and send me out for various baked goods, frozen yogurt (multiple times a day)...I consider it a triumph when she'll eat something like pizza now because it will actually fill her up for more than an hour. (Otherwise, she summons me to bring her various snacks at all hours of the day. Oh, the fun of steroids.)
I'm finding it hard not to frozen yogurt and bites of her food. Part of it is being trapped in this house for hours or days on end. I keep healthy things around but when I'm running upstairs with "treats" 15+ times per day, it's hard not to have a nibble. Additionally, we have a very weird kitchen situation (too complicated to go into) but I don't have much in the way of cooking equipment or storage space.
As I wrote this email, my mother 1) ordered me to bring her some key lime pie and 2) advised me that I would feel amazing if I gave up sugar 100 percent for one month.
So this is my primal challenge for the next 21 days. Be 100 percent Primal while surrounded by non-Primal food and maintain my sanity while watching my favorite person in the world disappear.
I know I'm not the only person on this forum struggling to take care of an aging parent or an ill spouse or child. I welcome any advice you have or just to hear about your experiences. More than help with the food I'd appreciate any help with how you maintain your spirits. I'm trying to get into a group for friends and family of cancer patients, and I'm hoping that meeting some other people in the same boat will be helpful. I already lost my father to cancer many years ago, but at that time my mother was his primary caregiver.