"Within a year of our wedding, my wheelchair-mobile mother-in-law moved in with us for the rest of her life," Jonathan explains. "Since my wife was already in a wheelchair, it seemed logical that one house full of ramps and grab bars would be easier to maintain than two." He quickly learned that no two people in wheelchairs have the same support needs, and that hosting a disabled relative had many of the attributes of a second full time job, and all the disadvantages of having a second wife.
While marrying a woman in a wheelchair gave him a crash course in caregiving, adding another disabled decision-maker to the household made things harder by an order of magnitude. "It works like the theory that having two children is four times as much work as having one," says Jonathan, who noted that addressing the different needs of two disabled women while working full time involved near-superhuman exercises in foresight, patience, behavior modification and applied psychology.
"Their needs were different, and doing what made one happy in the morning was likely to make the other mad in the afternoon," Jonathan noted. "And when they both needed something from me simultaneously, there were diplomatic complexities that added to the need for excellence in decision-making under pressure; but it turned out that maintaining the right attitude is half the battle."
Jonathan wrote a light humor column in a local monthly senior newspaper reflecting those attitudes, and those columns were adapted into four e-books describing his approach to caregiving including the job's personal rewards and his experiences with his mother-in-law's legal attended suicide in their home after ten years. Other e-books are in the works.
The blog opens a dialogue with other family caregivers who struggle to cope with the family dysfunctions, personal pain and impossible missions created by the decision to assist, support or give care to disabled relatives.
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Our blog and e-books are intended to offer useful information about the attitudes, mindsets and approaches that protect family caregivers from the hazards inherent to long term and end-of-life personal care in a brief and affordable format.