Joseph (60 years old) cares for his wife Marie who is born with numerous complex chronic health issues. Joseph has been retired for the last three years and assists Marie with her daily needs. Furthermore, Joseph is active as a volunteer for many different organizations. Marie has lived independently for most of her life yet in the last five years Joseph has become more involved in her care as her condition worsened. She is still able to do most activities on her own in the house although she needs help on a daily basis due to chronic pain and fatigue.
Joseph and Marie find it hard to identify the exact start of Joseph’s role as a caregiver, in part because they perceive the care and caregiving throughout the last eight years differently. However, the care for Marie started to intensify when she entered a period of regular hospital admissions about five years ago.
Joseph, who was still working at that time, tried everything he could to accommodate Marie in the best possible way. He found it a busy period where he tried to combine his work with his caregiving tasks. For example, he would interrupt his work to pick up medications and bring them to their house, try to go to the hospital on a daily basis during admission periods, and he tried to always be there for her in times of need.
“Patient, calm and a closed personality” is how Joseph describes himself before and during that period. Then he reached a point where everything changed. A doctor came to visit Marie in-hospital and they told him that she was suffering even more pain than on the day that she was admitted. The doctor thoughtfully looked at her patient record and asked: “do you think she can return home today?” After this event, Joseph screamed and cried in the car on his way back home, something he had never done before. He started dreading the responsibilities at home, at work and in caring for his wife. Joseph then connected with an understanding woman through the internet and their relation became so close that he decided to leave his wife and the house he was dreading so much, to live in the apartment of this new woman. His own wife, out of love for him, felt happy in a certain way in that she hoped that this would help stop his suffering. After six months, the separation period ended and a transformation in Joseph had begun. He realized that his suffering was not caused by the situation but by his own perception of life.
Back home with his wife, he found a better balance between providing care and his own personal interests and activities. Also, thanks to regular visits to the caregivers support group and the dépendants affectifs anonymes Québec (DAA), he is now able to say “no” from time to time, to requests from his wife, and has also been able to find more practical solutions to complete his caregiving tasks. For example, he recently found out that the pharmacy has a home delivery service, which has helped enormously with logistics.
Joseph’s transformation has opened him more as a person. The couple has grown closer together and deepened their love and compassion for each other. They have now reached a balance in their lives where they enjoy the beautiful moments while Joseph performs his caregiving activities in a more harmonious way.