Caregiver Honor Roll: Janet McCaskill
The Caregiver Honor Roll pays homage to family caregivers, such as Janet McCaskill.
Janet cares for her husband, Al, in their Chesapeake, Virginia home. Al used to own a skating rink and traveled frequently for a cheerleading outfitting business he shared with Janet. He now suffers from vascular dementia, and Janet has been his sole caregiver since 2003.
Biggest caregiving challenges
While Janet is still running the family business, she has had to scale it back to provide care for Al. This has caused some financial hardship for them.
Janet is challenged with juggling the business, her husband, the household, and her own needs. In a typical day, she rises by 6:30 a.m., gets Al out of bed at 8:30, helps him shower and shave, does laundry, makes meals, works on business paperwork, goes to client meetings and runs errands (bringing Al along to both), squeezes in some evening reading or TV time, and then heads back to bed by 10:30 p.m.
When visiting clients, Janet brings a folding chair for Al to sit on, and she watches him while she works. She says she's fortunate to have great clients who are absolutely accepting of his presence, and that Al is happy to be there, too. Janet also gets work done as Al catnaps, using the time to make phone calls, complete paperwork, and do housework.
Whether working around the home or on the job, Janet says everything revolves around Al. "I must keep his needs foremost in my mind," she says, "If he is doing well, then the day mostly progresses as I had hoped." Al's incontinence is the main problem she faces on a 24-hour basis. "I am vigilant about taking him into the bathroom on a regular basis in hopes of avoiding other problems that may involve another shower, redressing, changing clothes, etc.," she says.
Janet is saddened to see her husband "slipping away," but she says it's rare that she'll cry. "I've never been a person to get depressed," Janet said in an interview with The Virginian-Pilot newspaper. "I've learned to keep my feelings in check." Janet finds joy in being able to take care of Al, to reciprocate for all of the love he provided. "He treated me like a queen and put me on a pedestal. He would do the same for me."
For Janet, Caring.com is a significant source of information, helping her realize that what she's experiencing is normal. "Caring.com makes me feel confident, that I'm not alone, that it has happened to others," she says. "Caring.com is like my mentor. It takes me and guides me to the info I need. This site has definitely given me the confidence to handle anything that comes."
Tips for other caregivers
First and foremost, Janet encourages caregivers to read and research as much as possible to prepare for what caregiving entails and for how to be the most effective caregiver for your loved one. Next, be prepared to be flexible -- really flexible -- without setting such high expectations that not achieving them affects your job as a positive caregiver. No day will be just like the previous one. There will be good days and bad days.
When the bad days come, Janet says, it's important to try to relax and deal with each one with a smile. "Tomorrow will probably be better," she advises. "Keep the faith!"
Favorite song, book, or movie shared with loved one
"Al and I were huge music fans!" says Janet. "We loved concerts and went to see rock and country stars at least six times a year. In 15 years of marriage, we never missed one Chicago or James Taylor concert. We also belonged to a Broadway series of musicals and attended these at a local venue. Music was always a major part of our daily lives. Two of our favorite movies were Saturday Night Fever (for the great music and dancing) and Titanic (for its wonderful love story). We also loved good comedies, since laughter is always the fuel for our day."
We hope you will share your supportive comments with Janet below, or send her a virtual hug or prayer via her Caring.com profile.