What happens when the caregiver needs care?

A debilitating pain episode leads to a role reversal in this family

Jamie Askari avatar

by Jamie Askari |

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So what exactly happens when a full-time caregiver gets sick? Needs to take a well-needed day off? Can’t perform the necessary tasks of caregiving?

As full-time caregivers, some crazy questions run through our minds. For example, how will my husband, Arman, who was diagnosed in 2009 with early-onset Parkinson’s disease at age 38, manage without my constant support? Who will get him dressed, shaved, fed, and micromanage his every move? This is a scary thought for all of us who are the sole caregivers for our loved ones.

I have suffered from back and hip pain for about five years. Thankfully for me, it is annoying but in no way debilitating. (It isn’t Parkinson’s disease, for Pete’s sake!) The pain started when I was dealing with a particularly stressful family situation years ago, and the stress just so happened to land in my back — and never left me alone again.

I tried doctors, specialists, physical therapy, occupational therapy, massage, medications, and anything else you can imagine. I eventually tried Pilates, which has kept the pain at bay and helped me relax while strengthening my core — win-win!

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Down for the count

But this time, the back pain was different. I was casually reaching for a bottle of ibuprofen after a five-hour car ride home from visiting our kids, and I was suddenly down for the count. In the blink of an eye, our roles had reversed — I called Arman for help as I was wincing in pain on the bathroom floor. Immediately, I wondered, “How can he care for me when I am supposed to care for him? This is not how it goes in our home. I am the caregiver!”

As luck would have it, my husband is a complete warrior. (Our last name Askari actually means warrior!) As much as he does need my help, he truly despises asking for assistance. In fact, he has the patience to try something for hours before asking for help; that’s how strong-willed he is.

However, he was all over it when it came time for him to step up and help me. He was thrilled to be there for me, lend me a helping hand, and be the caregiver. It was as if this happened so he could find his purpose again and help me for a change.

This temporary role reversal has helped me realize how much my husband can do and that maybe he doesn’t need as much hand-holding as I usually give. This may have happened for a reason — to prove that I do not have to do everything or be perfect to be a successful caregiver.

While my debilitating back pain has gone back to the usual pain, I won’t forget how my husband was able to step up when needed. Secretly, it was kind of fun while it lasted!

Note: Parkinson’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Parkinson’s News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Parkinson’s disease.


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