David is 68 years old and lives with his wife and one of his two grown children. David’s wife was diagnosed with MS (multiple sclerosis) 12 years ago. David’s wife needs regular support for her daily living, although she is able to stay home alone for certain periods of time. David took the option of early retirement 10 years ago but he then decided to return to the workforce in a self-employed arrangement sometime after that. Currently he is considering reducing his work hours in order to better care for his wife.
David and his wife experienced a hectic period in their lives when they were trying to find the exact diagnosis to explain her symptoms. Shortly after the MS diagnosis, David’s wife started a clinical trial for a new treatment for a period of two years. At that time David’s wife was still able to drive. However, very soon after the start of the treatment she needed somebody to drive her to her appointments. Since then, it has been a long downwards spiral with her illness with challenges at almost every step. Along the way, David was introduced to caregiving and his tasks increased substantially. For David “the caregiving did not start as being a caregiver but as becoming a caregiver”. It is not a job that he chose to apply for and not one for which he had been trained. In fact, after 12 years of caregiving, David feels that he still has not mastered well enough certain aspects of his caregiving role.
David retired early to provide better care for his wife; his work and his regular activities were becoming too much. Having a part-time, self-employed position today is still not ideal, as David is constantly trying to find the right balance between his professional life, his work as a caregiver and his painting. Although David’s physical health has not been notably affected by the situation, he has been depressed for several years and is currently taking medication for that.
David’s grown daughter lives with them and helps whenever she can. His son, who lives further away, also helps when he is able to. David feels that he is well supported by their friends who remain in contact on a regular basis and respond well to his requests. In addition, he has had a very good experience with the services offered by his local community health centre and his wife’s physician. He is appreciative of medical professionals who acknowledge him as a caregiver because the darker side of his experience with professionals is that sometimes he is made to feel like an invisible person, barely tolerated, and hardly recognized. This has led to some hostile encounters with healthcare professionals. David wishes there was a better support system around to enable him to improve his caregiving skills. He would also like to be able to meet other people in similar situations, such as through a caregivers support group, but as yet he has not found such a group in his area.
In spite of all this, cooking and eating good food with his wife is something David greatly enjoys. He has also kept alive his love for painting. David explains that when he paints he is able to focus his mind away from his caregiving while at the same time it feeds and recharges his soul. This enables him to continue with all of his responsibilities, in what he describes as the never-ending process of learning to care