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Unexpected Retirement
Old 09-22-2012, 12:25 PM   #1
Confused about dryer sheets
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Unexpected Retirement

Hello, All ...

Looks like a great forum!

I don't know if there are any answers for my situation -- perhaps a kick in the pants is the best answer. If my post is too far off-topic, please let me know.

The Good News is, due more to luck than skill, I was able to retire at the earliest "feasible" date (1 week after I reached age 55). The Bad News is, my retirement was forced upon us by my husband's mild stroke and recovery. I was simply taking too much time off work.

Two months after his stroke, one of our best friends also suffered a major stroke, and was far less lucky. She is now completely disabled physically -- cannot walk and almost blind -- but her mind is still strong. My in-laws are also starting to require more and more attention, though they're still pretty independent at the moment.

We're doing okay money-wise, and my caregiving duties are relatively light. Too light to be appropriate for a caregiver forum.

But the thing is, so many of our dreams are deferred, or just plain gone. I don't see us opening up any cool businesses, or going on any of our long-awaited travels, any time soon. Or at all. My husband can be left on his own for a few hours -- but he cannot drive, he tires easily, and his meds keep him tired. My friend's family and I are trying to bring her some semblance of independence.

Most of our friends live more than an hour or two away, and, except for the in-laws, our relatives live further out than that. I expect that at least one of them will also need our help soon.

My social life now revolves completely around caregiving in one way or another. Our marriage is still a happy one -- I'm not interested in entanglements -- but I feel like I'm living the life of a very elderly person, not an early retiree. The original idea was to retire early enough so that we'd have some years before health or elder commitments brought us back down to earth. Oops. Didn't happen.

On the other hand, I've got a myriad of blessings to count.

I know I just need to put on my big girl pants and be happy. Sometimes, I'm able to do that, but not often enough. I do have more time than I used to, but it comes in less predictable chunks.

So I wonder if any of you have retired directly into caregiving, and how you managed to find satisfaction in it (if, indeed, you did)?

A simple kick in the pants might also be helpful.

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Old 09-22-2012, 12:39 PM   #2
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I am sorry to hear of the challenges that have be foisted upon you. I'm not in your situation and my only experience with such things is watching my DW and SIL care for MIL who had a brave fight with cancer.

It sounds like me that you need a bit of time to process, and almost mourn, the fact that your plans and dreams for the early years of your retirement are so different from what you had in mind. I think it would be healthy for you to have some outlet that you do for yourself so you have some "me" time as a break from your caregiver roles so you don't get burned out. Even if it was just a couple hours every other day or so it might help.

I'm sure others on these boards wiht more experience in such matters will have good advice for you. Best wishes.

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Old 09-22-2012, 02:09 PM   #3
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Thank you for the warm support! I guess I feel that I'm not the one foisted upon; it's the folks with the health problems who have real issues.

Since all the health conditions are chronic, rather than progressive or terminal ... best-case scenario is that this is how the early, middle and late years of my retirement will be. Unless miracles happen -- I'm all for that!

Mostly, what I need is an attitude transplant. NOW! But maybe I could also use some social outlet that doesn't involve caring for someone else, even if it's only monthly or quarterly. (Weekly seems excessive at this point.)

Hmmm ... that doesn't feel right, either. Maybe I need to get into volunteering.
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Old 09-22-2012, 04:14 PM   #4
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Welcome Roselynne!

So sorry to hear that your path into ER is not how you envisioned it and that you are encumbered by caring not only for your husband but also a friend and your in-laws. It must feel overwhelming sometimes. My DH retired on disability (MS) a few years before I did, and although our retirement is not what I had envisioned when I was in my 40s, his abilities have declined slowly over the years so I had time to come to terms with it. Fortunately, he is still 90% independent (including driving) so I have much more freedom than you.

I suggest you find some activities that are JUST FOR YOU. You should not feel guilty about that - you need to recharge your batteries in whatever way floats your boat (hmmm, pretty awful mixed metaphor there, sorry).

You might try finding some activities that take you out of the house on occasion - a choral or instrumental group, a dance or exercise class, or maybe art or cooking classes - just a few ideas out of many possibilities. At the same time, finding a new hobby that you can do mostly at home at irregular times might also be good - anything from reading all of the mystery novels by a particular author to organizing and/or scrapbooking family photos to knitting to brewing your own beer...again there are lots of options.

You may even get some good ideas just by perusing the forums here - the vast majority of people here are friendly, creative, smart, and good humored.

Best wishes to you as you start your ER journey!
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Old 09-22-2012, 05:16 PM   #5
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You sound like a very strong and positive person. Your hubby is lucky to have you!

A good friend of mine went through a similar "adjustment of expectations" when having a severely disabled child. She needed time to mourn the loss of the life she expected to have, and some help in finding the joy in her new circumstances. She told me that having a support network of friends in similar circumstances has been a life saver. As much as you deeply love the disabled person in your life, you need a place where it is safe to express those negative emotions of anger, sadness, and frustration...

I don't know that you need an attitude adjustment so much as a good circle of friends to support you.


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Old 09-22-2012, 06:32 PM   #6
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I truly can relate to your situation. I, too, retired as soon as I could after turning 55 with just over 30 years of service from the federal government to provide assistance to my husband, who has rheumetoid arthritis. He is confined to a wheelchair and needs assistance with everday life essentials. I am very happy that I made the decision to leave at that time as I truly enjoy being available to help my husband when he needs me. Retiremement has worked well for both of us since I don't have to constantly jungle my schedule assist my husband with doctor appoinments, etc. Also, I have been relieved of a very stressful job that required that I work even after leaving the office. Thus, I think we both have benefited a lot.

I hope all works well with you and your family.
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Old 09-22-2012, 06:41 PM   #7
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I am not in the situation you are in but. I planned to move and retire in the country in Missouri. Had the land bought. I am still living in the suburbs and taking care of grandchildren. Not what I expected, but not bad. I am not comparing my situation to yours just acknowledging that things don't turn out as expected. I think you have to find happiness in whatever situation you are in the best you can.

I am just glad I am not in corporate hell any longer.
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Old 09-22-2012, 09:08 PM   #8
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Caregiving can be rewarding, but it's also extremely tiring and very hard work. It's also a major change from what you planned, so it's very normal for you to be depressed and resentful.

You need to make time for yourself and your dreams. You may need to adapt your plans, but I think it's important for you to do stuff that's important to you.
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Old 09-22-2012, 10:02 PM   #9
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Is the tiredness from the meds something normal or do his meds need to be reviewed for a different dose or another drug altogether?

Is packing DH into a rented motorhome an option to do some travelling? At least you can get away from home and experience a change of scenery even though your caregiver responsibilities might be the same in a different location.
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Old 09-22-2012, 11:06 PM   #10
Confused about dryer sheets
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Wow ... this really is a great forum!

Thanks to all of you. Just a few quick responses:

MBAustin -- I honestly don't know whether it's easier to watch a slow decline or get plunged into it head-on. My best wishes are with you.

Lazarus -- Raising a second generation of children! My best wishes are with you, also.

Buckeye -- My husband's tiredness is partly a stroke effect, but equal blame goes to his BP meds. My understanding is that the "sedative" effect is permanent, and so are the pills. But we're going to seek a second opinion. (High BP caused his stroke, so we've gotta proceed slowly, if at all.) As for my taking us off in an RV -- well, travel itself tires him out, even as a passenger. He can't really enjoy it, so it just ain't worth it, as things are now.

As far as doing my own thing ... well, my husband does not need me around 24/7. In fact, he's back to working part time, though I have to be ready to bring him home at any time.

But the guilt's still there. (Why should I get to do interesting things, when folks close to me can't? That's Just Wrong!) And ... there's also the more selfish fear that I'll only get yanked right out of any plans I manage to make or activities I try to do.

That said, I've started a few at-home activities. Now (I guess) it may be time to explore occasional outside activities that involve other people, but not watching after them. W**k is not on the menu of options!
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Old 09-23-2012, 05:43 AM   #11
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That is a tough one.
I admire your dedication and wish you, DH + friend all the best. Recovery takes time and things might still improve.

But take care of yourself. It is a kind of emergency situation and only if you think of yourself first you will be able to help your loved ones on the long run. Like on planes: In case of emergency first put on your own oxygen mask, then help the others.

Originally Posted by Roselynne View Post
As far as doing my own thing ... well, my husband does not need me around 24/7. In fact, he's back to working part time, though I have to be ready to bring him home at any time.
Why you? You could explore other options for an alternative if you are not available, like a student who could drive him one day per week, a colleague, an elderly neighbor. If he needs to get home unexpectedly he could contact you via mobile anywhere, even during sports or classes.

Originally Posted by Roselynne View Post
But the guilt's still there. (Why should I get to do interesting things, when folks close to me can't? That's Just Wrong!)
If anyone in the family isn't happy mom has no right to be happy?
I understand your point but the opposite is also true: If mom ain't happy, nobody is.
A self help group of caregivers might be good to avoid burn out.
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Old 09-23-2012, 06:12 AM   #12
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Hi Roselynne and welcome abroad. When life hands you lemons, I say add some gin and tonic and make sure to sip a bit every now and then.

Sorry to hear about your situation, but it sounds like you have become the anchor for those around you, a role you did not choose but have embraced. That is a kind thing to do - good for you. You do need to stay strong and healthy, physically and mentally, if you don't, they will suffer. Take time for that, don't feel guilty, think about it as recharging your batteries so you can continue to help them.
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Old 09-23-2012, 06:51 AM   #13
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Welcome to the board, Roselynne.

The author of "When The Time Comes" points out that caregiving is one of the most rewarding & fulfilling ways to "step up" for our society. Unfortunately the women (and over 70% of caregivers are women) also burn out at a high rate. In fact you may be the next person to need that care.

Caregiving is not a competition. You don't have to suffer a certain number of months or pain points before you can join a caregiver's group. You should join one just to hear the stories of the other members so that you can learn from their experiences and avoid their mistakes. They'll give you recommendations about doctors & local businesses that you'll never hear from the medical professionals. (Not just who/what to use, but who to avoid.) It's perfectly fine to sit there and listen, then say "I don't feel comfortable sharing yet. Maybe another time." You'll also gain comfort from knowing that it's socially acceptable to get caregiver respite without feeling guilty about it.

I've been caring for my father's finances for over 18 months, and my brother's his guardian. The care facility does a great job so hypothetically neither of us "need" to join an Alzheimer's support group. Yet I'm going to sit in on my local group just to learn more about the progression to end stage, warning signs, and hospice. Heaven forbid that I should find someone to advise us on conservator or guardian issues, too.

Originally Posted by Roselynne View Post
Buckeye -- My husband's tiredness is partly a stroke effect, but equal blame goes to his BP meds. My understanding is that the "sedative" effect is permanent, and so are the pills. But we're going to seek a second opinion. (High BP caused his stroke, so we've gotta proceed slowly, if at all.)
My father went through the same adaptive process with Lisinopril & Fosinopril, then a few years later back to Lisinopril. Your spouse's doctor should be willing to try the alternatives. Medication reactions change, and he may tolerate a change better today than he would have even a few months ago. The key is to move slowly and give things time to settle out, if there are no bad reactions.

If you're part of a caregiver support group then you might be able to get specific local advice on doctors, other medications, and other people's experiences.

I think the last thing you need to do at this point is to volunteer... to take care of someone/something else. Give yourself permission to take care of yourself. Your spouse, family, and friends want you to do that too.

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Old 09-23-2012, 08:37 AM   #14
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Your story makes me sad, but is all too common. I join with the others here in saying how important it is for YOU and your husband, that you keep living a life outside of the home. Whether it's volunteering, taking classes, visiting friends etc. Don't forget physical exercise which will help mind and body. My thoughts are with you all... mark
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Old 09-23-2012, 09:25 AM   #15
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You mention the sedative effect of some blood pressure medications. These can be subtle to pronounced. As a formerly (inadvertently) sedated sufferer of high blood pressure, I urge you to work with your doctors to find alternative drugs with less mental sedative effects. There are many alternatives to treating high blood pressure and individual patients respond differently to different drugs. It may be that some experimentation is required to find an effective combination with lower mental impact, but it is likely well worth it for quality of life.
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Old 09-23-2012, 10:53 AM   #16
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Is DH depressed because of everything that has happened? Does he need a support group? Does you being able-bodied and ready to go make him crabby or angry?
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Old 09-23-2012, 12:27 PM   #17
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My husband's doctor loves his pharmaceutical toolkit, but can (usually) be made to see reason. That high BP, however, is stubborn beyond belief. There's been a lot of tweaking, and it always results in more meds. That said, we will try to find an alternate solution, including moderate diet changes -- a real tough sell, but I think I've talked DH into trying it.

As for attitude ... my husband, our friend and the in-laws are all truly inspiring. Yes, they're human, down-times happen. But that's the exception, not the rule. It makes hanging in there worthwhile.

But maybe I don't have to hang on quite so tight? It's just sunk in, I guess, that -- even with improvements all around -- this "emergency" could go on for decades.

Still ... I've got to admit that things aren't bad. At least, they could be so much worse. Financially speaking, thus far our plans for early retirement worked out beyond all expectations.
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Old 09-23-2012, 05:55 PM   #18
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#1 - Head on straight
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You have it all... Your life will be good.
We adapt and are limited only by our own fears.

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A key is to not live in self pity, saving that for the quiet hours when no one is around.
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Old 09-24-2012, 10:58 AM   #19
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Roselynne: Many of us have experiences similar, some could be classed as more severe, some less. I think attitude, as you point out, is key. In our case, we care for the MIL in our home and travel is only possible when the BIL can take her, which is not frequent. We're in the fortunate situation that we are quite FI (enhanced by the inability to spend our money doing the traveling we wanted to do at this point) and both very healthy at 61. Meanwhile we look at the 87 yo MIL, who is physically very frail but mentally in good shape, and wonder how long before WE end up like that? As in our clock is ticking too. So we're basically waiting for our freedom to enjoy our retirement. May sound harsh, but that's basically where we are. We obviously don't wish her ill, but it's easy for us to get a tad on the resentful side at times (OK, big confession there). We're not comfortable with bringing a paid caregiver into our home, so that's not an option.
You sound like you experience the guilt of wanting some "me" time. Get over it and go for it. Our one big mistake 6 years ago when we brought the MIL was to not set some boundaries. It started out like an extended visit that morphed into a real long hosted visit. As in, if we go out for dinner we have to almost make an excuse to not include her. Her joining us for TV after dinner rather than returning to her addition, and snoring for an hour before she wakes up and goes out there, well that bugs me. I throw that out there for others who are considering such arrangements. I wish we had just said "we'll be going out on "date night" once a week without you." and you return to your suite at 9. Sure we could do that NOW but it's harder and something that my oh-so-accomodating DW is not comfortable doing.
Caregiving is hard work (it is for DW, me not so much) and should be highly respected and even revered. Marriage means a lot, so do generational ties; absent major family dysfunction caregiving is somewhat of an obligation IMO. Doesn't mean we have to love every aspect of it. But when you meet the obligations, then for goodness sake reward yourself, allow yourself some guilty pleasures in time spent pursuing your own desires.
One last thing; for us as we slog through these times, we concentrate on our health and fitness. After all, if we want to be able to enjoy our freedom once granted then we need to take care of ourselves. So we run, walk, I bike, and we eat well. Added benefit is we just feel better about everything when we do.
Good luck, and take care of yourself with the same care as you take care of others!
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Old 09-25-2012, 01:32 AM   #20
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Welcome and sorry to read about the health issues those close to you have been facing. Take care.

Very conservative with investments. Not ER'd yet, 48 years old. Please do not take anything I write or imply as legal, financial or medical advice directed to you. Contact your own financial advisor, healthcare provider, or attorney for financial, medical and legal advice.
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