Inez

Inez
Age at interview
81
Age at start of caregiving activities
73

Inez (81 years old) has been a farmer all her life. She has been married to her husband for 63 years and has four grown children who all live far from her farm. Inez has become increasingly involved in the care for her husband over the last nine years, while she also runs the inside and outside operations of their home. Inez’ husband (85 years old) was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease many years ago and his mobility is now reduced. His memory has started to be affected by the illness as well.

Inez was 18 years old when she married her husband. The couple moved to a small house on land owned by her parents-in-law and there they had their first three children. They proceeded to build a bigger house and then had their fourth child.

Inez’s interest and skills as a caregiver started at the early age of six years old when her baby sister was born and she practically took over as her mother. She then took care of her parents and parents-in-law in their later years. Inez resumed her caregiver’s role nine years ago when her husband was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. During this period, Inez found out that she was diabetic, which she found hard to believe initially because she had lived healthily her whole life.

Inez wishes she had better medical support for her husband’s and her own healthcare problems. There used to be a medical doctor in a village 50 miles from their home but, they have not been able to find a replacement since their doctor retired. In the closest village to their home, the number of doctors has decreased from ten to three over the last few years. The fact that the present-day doctors are from other countries does not help Inez as she finds it hard to adapt to their attitude and working habits which are quite different from the previous doctor’s. As a result, Inez feels she has had to resolve most medical issues by herself. For instance, by skilfully using information from her friends and internet to work on her diabetes she succeeded to control her blood sugar within five months after being diagnosed. Based on similar sources of information, Inez has also had the idea of varying her husband’s medications he takes daily to try to reduce his symptoms of dizziness. 

Inez continues to keep a healthy lifestyle and makes all of their meals herself. She has a wide interest in many things and enjoys doing handiwork even if now she does not always have the time to do the things she loves doing. It can frustrate her to do the same things every day, and in those moments she sometimes thinks that there is no hope that things are going to change for the better. However, her personality is such that she never gets angry or stressed. In order to remain calm, Inez asks herself in challenging situations: “does it really matter? Does it really, really matter? Her answer is often “no”, so Inez quickly calms down.

Inez feels that she made the choice 63 years ago to marry her husband for better or worse, and she is determined to remain at his side until the end. For this, she trusts the strength of the long, close and unique bond she shares with her husband.

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Well, consider each situation, but one of the things is “just be patient.” Just be patient. Like I said, “who cares”. Is it that important that you get stressed out over it, or you get angry over it or, or depressed over it? No, no it doesn’t matter at all. Just hang in there and grin and bear it. There’s an end and you never know what blessings will come because of the way you acted.

I worked in a government office for 17 years and got one complaint against me. It came from head office. So the boss I was working with he said “We’ve had a complaint against you and I said ‘what is it?” He said “they wonder why you’re happy all the time.” Different people would come in and they—[it] was a place where there was mostly men clientele—would come in mad and going at me. And I’d just stay calm and answer their questions and show them the rules and regulations, if that had to be and so on. So, it came back to me different times that they would meet up then with the boss and they’d say “Well, what’s with her? I went in there giving her a blast and I came out smiling. Isn’t she ever upset? Doesn’t she ever get mad?” “No, [I] worked with her for years and she’s never gotten angry. No.” What does it do for you? It makes you worse. No. I’m always happy. So, that’s one thing I would say. Whatever your situation is, just try to be happy. Try to be happy.

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My neighbour over here gave me a clock. I don’t know if you noticed it when you came in there hanging on the wall in the utility room. It’s a little square wooden clock, and all the numbers have all fallen cockeyed.  Down around the bottom of the clock it says, “Who cares?” So, she gave that to me. She said, “This is you. You never get stressed out of anything. Who cares?” So, when I think of things are getting tough, I just think of the clock that she gave me and, “Who cares? Does it really matter?” Does it really, really matter? No it really does not matter. Be thankful for what we have.

Okay and based on your own experiences what advice would you have to other caregivers or friends and family?

Consider each situation, but one of the things is “just be patient, just be patient”. Like I said, “Who cares?” Is it that important that you get stressed out over it, or you get angry over it or, or depressed over it? No, no it doesn’t matter at all. Just hang in there and grin and bear it. There’s an end and you never know what blessings will come because of the way you acted. 

I worked in a government office for 17 years and got one complaint against me. It came from head office. So the boss I was working with, he said, “We’ve had a complaint against you.” And I said, “What is it?” He said, “They wonder why you’re happy all the time.” Different people would come in and they—[it] was a place where there was mostly men clientele—would come in mad and going at me. And I’d just stay calm and answer their questions and show them the rules and regulations, if that had to be and so on. So, it came back to me different times that they would meet up then with the boss and they’d say, “Well, what’s with her? I went in there giving her a blast and I came out smiling. Isn’t she ever upset? Doesn’t she ever get mad?” “No, worked with her for years and she’s never gotten angry. No.” What does it do for you? It makes you worse. No, I’m always happy. So, that’s one thing I would say. Whatever your situation is, just try to be happy.

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Well the doctor situation in town here now is really bad. A few years ago they had ten doctors and now they’re down to three. And it’s practically impossible to get an appointment. And a lot of people, they take advantage of a situation by going into emergency when it’s not an emergency, and I won’t do that. I won’t do that so… But the doctor that we’ve been going to since we quit the one up north, he’s now retired. So, what do you do? There are three doctors there, and two of them are from South Africa, and one of them is from Cuba. So they don’t really know western Canada lifestyles. I mean, their medical knowledge might be great, but they don’t know a lot of causes and effects that would affect people and their health.

So, to get an appointment with a doctor, well I haven’t even tried. I have a situation here, I have to fill out a form for a disabled person and I have to have a doctor write three or four pages of stuff regarding it. Well, I don’t know when or if I’m ever going to be able to get it done. They wanted it in 30 days. Well, it’s been about 15 days now. And so, I don’t know if I can get the doctor to do anything. And if we don’t go back to the doctor that’s retired, the other doctors know nothing about my husband. Sure, they have the papers there at the clinic, but they’d have to take an hour to read them before they finally figured out what he needed or something. And so, it’s a problem. It’s a real problem, yeah. So I rely mostly on myself to find out and do that which is the best thing to do.

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I am determined that when we got married it was for better or for worse and it was forever. So because we’ve lived together, it’ll be 64 years in November, and we have never had an argument so our relationship is very close as well as being man and wife. And so, I don’t think of it as a problem; I think of it as just part of our life together, and I can look back and see all of the years that we’ve had that we’ve done some things that we wanted to do, and we’re still able to do them because I—do some of them—because I’m able to drive. And having driven since I was 16 years old, that I really know how to drive. And so we do go places occasionally, but when it comes to deciding to go for sure, he would say “Do we have to?”

Well [my husband] is 4 years older than I am, but like I said we’re both in our 80s and I think it has to be your relationship before these things happen. Like I said, we have never argued. So our tolerance and patience with each other has always been there so it’s not that difficult. I mean I get up some day and I think “Oh well, I’m going to do this, this and this,” and then it all turns around because he needs attention and then I think “I don’t have a life of my own.” But I do have a life. This is the life I chose, so I don’t have any complaints. But I realize a lot of people just can’t. And when he becomes less mobile, it’s going to be harder yet, but I said “We’ll probably have 2 choices. We’ll probably have to have a caregiver come in every so often.” That will help with him bathing and so on and so forth. And other than that, we just play it by ear I guess from day to day.

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I have to be very patient and repeat sometimes four or five times. “Now, do you get this?” “Yes,” but two hours later he’ll ask me the same question again. So, that takes a lot of patience. So it’s not easy. It’s not easy, but it’s a labour of love.