Caretaker “almost” burned-out

As disclosed in last week’s opinion, our household has been caught in the grips of an on-going battle with the dreadful coronavirus for more than fourteen days. With Sandra quarantined in the back bedroom and only permitted to pass through the house when venturing outside for a natural dose of vitamin D, everything has been flipped, turned up-side down.

We’ve enjoyed nine-plus years of virtual marital bliss while tag-teaming responsibilities on the home front. With my classification being “clinically disabled,” I haven’t enjoyed a presence as part of the work force since an accident in 2001. As such, when we first married, I’d take the initiative to prepare meals during the week since my wife worked all day. A few years beyond our nuptials, Sandra opted for her company’s offer of early retirement; deciding to pursue the route of self-employment.

With us both at home, it proved quite beneficial as one of the first things we decided on was a stage by stage remodel of the house. After we’d completed the kitchen and installed all stainless appliances, which included a glass-top stove, my better half immediately banned me from cooking. Since nerve damage from the accident left me without sensitivity in my hands she originally worried about the possibility I might unknowingly touch the hot stove.

Fast-forward several years and we’re forced to come to terms with the dire consequences of a life altering pandemic. In the few days before her positive diagnosis was confirmed and the weeks since, our roles have completely changed. The position of caretaker not only mandates I prepare all Sandra’s meals but also address every household concern. My chores consist of everything from cleaning to laundry, yard work, and mechanical repairs on top of fielding calls/text messages/emails and other forms of communication from her nine siblings, strewn across the US and in England, who request multiple updates throughout the day.

The vast majority of family, friends, and associates with whom I’ve spoken have readily offered unsolicited “advice” regarding what’s best for Sandra…notwithstanding the fact that only one family member has had any first-hand experience with the virus. Taking that factor into consideration and the documented statistic that it appears to affect everyone differently anyway leaves the correct solution to anybody’s guess.

One thing I do know for certain, the degree of difficulty involved having to watch Sandra suffer with the extremely severe symptoms that often leave her utterly depleted. There are days when she feels okay and can pretty much function close to normal and then come those with the exact opposite effect; when she can’t even get out the bed. In any case, the fact she’s confined to one room mandates I prepare her meals on a set schedule as all the medication requires food prior to it being taken.

The real magnitude of the situation came into full view over the weekend as my day started between 6:30 and 7:00 o’clock Saturday morning. I was up to prepare Sandra’s breakfast and take up her plate so she could remain on schedule for the medication. Then it was necessary to start the laundry prior to cleaning the kitchen while intermittently transitioning clothes from the washer to the dryer and then to the bedroom.

Additional tasks consuming the remainder of the day consisted of changing out a dysfunctional screen in a storm door, repairing the lawn mower, cutting grass, preparing my wife’s meals, running errands, cleaning the kitchen again prior to sitting at 11:00 pm to script this opinion. Two hours later had me complete the column moments ahead of another request from the confined patient.

Beyond addressing Sandra’s immediate need, I moved into the bathroom to soap away the day’s residue. Emerging from the much needed shower approaching 2:00 am, I still faced the three loads of laundry that had to be put away. At the point my day finally ended, I’d contracted a serious case of “caretaker almost burned out.” It’s during situations like these when those stated vows, “For better or for worse” really take form because there’s no way to know how much worse the “worse” can get. I could be wrong but it’s just something to consider.

To pose a question or share your opinion, you can reach B. G. Howard at or P. O. Box 8103, Jacksonville, FL 32239.