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My husband, Orville, and I have been married 48 years. He was a widower with 4 sons, ages 5, 7, 10, and 12 when I married him. A year after our wedding we went to Misawa Air Base Japan for 5 years. Upon Orville’s retirement, we settled in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. In 1980 and ’83 we went to Bible School in Oklahoma and pastored a church in Spencer, Iowa, for 5 years and then went back to Cedar Rapids. In 1995, I went back to college and got my BA in Graphic Design/Art. In 2000, we sold everything and moved into a 36′ Fifth Wheel RV and traveled the country. We still live in our RV but we don’t travel anymore.

Besides being a “caregiver,” I’m a parent, cook, graphic designer, photographer, grandmother, great-grandmother, and minister.

I’m caring for my husband, Orville. I’ve been caring for him on and off for at least the past 30 years, but more so since his first back surgery in 2008. In December 2012 we stopped traveling because of Orv’s health and settled down on our leased lot in an RV co-op in Lakewood, NM. Traveling in 2012 had been filled with many health issues for him and a hospitalization in Anderson, IN for 10 days with staph in the blood. In 2013, Orv had another back surgery and other hospitalizations for dehydration.

Finally, in June of 2014, a physical therapist noticed parkinson-like symptoms and told Orv he should see a neurologist. That diagnosis was confirmed and we decided to apply to become a resident at Escapees RV Club CARE (assisted living in our RV) in Livingston, TX. We were accepted and arrived here on September 10, 2014.  This move was as much for my benefit as for Orv’s. I was totally exhausted. Now we eat our meals in the CARE Center, they pick up our laundry and do it once a week, and we are surrounded by caring people who help us as much as we want. I don’t feel alone anymore because we are in a community of people who all need assistance.

Coming to CARE-Assisted Living in our RV is the best thing that helps me. I still do just as much caregiving but not having to cook or do laundry and knowing I have a nurse to call makes life so much easier. Before coming here Orv has “home care” where a nurse and physical therapist come every week and that, too, was helpful because we always had someone we could ask questions of.

The best advice for caregivers? Be sure to find a way to take time for yourself. Turn to God. If I didn’t have Jesus Christ in my life giving me strength, I could not make it. I often say “The joy of the Lord is my strength.”

One of the hardest parts of being a caregiver is that most people ask “How’s Orv?” and they don’t ask about me. They don’t realize how exhausting it is to be a caregiver. It leaves you feeling very alone.

The most rewarding part of caregiving is the gratitude of my husband.  I know all caregivers can’t say that. I’m so grateful that he appreciates what I do for him. It makes it bearable.

The greatest lesson of caregiving: Love and patience are essential.

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  1. Mary, have you thought of calling 911 to come and pick your mother up? EMT’s are trained to do it. Where we are they don’t charge anything to just come pick someone up who has fallen. It doesn’t mean she has to go to the hospital.

  2. Oh, Mary, I so know what you are going through. Do you have any help? Please look into Medicare Hospice. It saved my sanity when I was caring for my mother who died last year at age 96. Also, does your local area (county?) have an Office of Aging? They provide social workers and real help. What you are doing is really hard. I hope things get better soon.

  3. Hi,I am a caregiver for my 90 year old mother,95 year old father and my 64 yr old sister with MS…they live close mother has take many falls,and they refuse to go into a nursing home..I am very overwhelmed getting calls during the early morning that my mother has fallen..I am 59 and my husband is 63,and are not capable of pulling her up off the floor..fortunately my big son is still home,and we bring him with us..I am presently not working,gave up my job,but I feel so overwhelmed,especially when I get up in the morning…I get this wave that comes over me,headaches,and at times lightheaded..I cry alone,don’t want my husband or my 3 children to see me..I feel like I’m spiralling downward…my brother talks to me,trys to help me emotionally,but he is estranged from my father,so he barely goes over,except to see my mother and sister every two here I sit as I type this in tears..thank-you for listening

    • Hi Mary, it sounds like you’re in a position that many family caregivers find themselves in – overwhelmed and not sure where to find support. We’re a community that’s going through this with you and our community members should be able to help you find respite services to make caring for your parents and sister a little bit easier.


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