Introducing The Family Caregiver of the Year Third Place Winner: Robert W.
As we continue to celebrate and honor the winners of The Family Caregiver of the Year Awards, we wanted to turn the spotlight to our third place winner, Robert W.
Robert (Bob) W., an HVAC maintenance technician, has been caring for his wife, Anne, for 18 years. After two catastrophic brain bleeds that left Anne cognitively disabled and blind, Robert took on full-time primary caregiving responsibilities, providing everything from personal care and housekeeping to transportation and emotional support. Because of Robert’s physically demanding and public-facing job, he is constantly risking exposure to the coronavirus to make money to support his family, but takes extra precaution to not expose Anne, who is at high-risk to the virus. Robert was nominated by his sister-in-law, Christine, who mentioned, “Bob is a very faithful husband and an extraordinary man. He loves Anne, he loves God, and is incredibly worthy of the honor of Family Caregiver of the Year.”
We asked Bob to share his caregiving experience and any advice other caregivers should know, and Bob’s overarching advice was to find a community for continued strength and support. See below for a Q&A with our Family Caregiver of the Year Award Third Place Winner — Robert (Bob) W.
Bob, How did you decide to provide in-home care for your wife?
I never thought about it up front, I was just thrown into it. You do what you got to do.
When I married Anne, she was 46 and I was 36. I knew that age difference would probably be a consideration someday but decided I would love her no matter what, and with God’s grace I have. She always had a slight limp, and right side weakness that I didn’t notice at first. I later learned that she has a birth defect, an AVM which stands for Arteriovenous Malformation. The blood vessels in her brain are cross-connected and at 18, in her freshman year at college, a massive headache turned out to be a brain bleed. She was paralyzed on her right side, lost her speech and some other nasty stuff. She recovered well, eventually, and went back to college for early learning and childcare. She was a nanny, then did 20 years as a nursery school teacher in charge of six two-year-olds. That was when I met her and fell in love.
Over the years, Anne has suffered two serious brain bleeds that caused her to need in-home care. Thankfully, between my work (they love Anne and have been very flexible with time off for me to care for her), our family, our Church, and our neighbors we have found a solid routine.
What does a typical day look like for you and your wife?
Our alarm goes off at 5:30am. I say, “Good morning Anne, it’s Wednesday.” she says, “Are you OK?” I must answer promptly or she repeats. I go around the bed and give her my arm and we walk to the bathroom for her morning routine.
Anne relies heavily on memorized phrases, and her favorite is “I love you Bob. A lot. I really do.” She says it SO much it would be annoying if it was any other phrase. She eats breakfast, which includes her morning banana, bagel with PB and OJ. “Turn off the radio, kiss me, lock the door.” She does use a pendant phone to call me at work if she needs me. We also have a neighbor who comes to the house while I am at work to keep Anne company.
After work I come home, fix dinner, and tuck her in at 7:30 PM after she brushes her teeth herself. After 7:30 PM, I have some quiet time to myself to unwind and relax from the day. Lately, I have been using this time to learn some professional skills like programming and networking.
We attend church regularly, and both enjoy the time out of the house with God and among our community.
What advice would you give to someone considering a full-time family caregiving role?
If you don’t love the person you care for, you better find someone who does. You are going to sacrifice a whole lot of your dreams and desires to pull it off. My father told me a long time ago. “Bob, most of life is doing things you don’t want to do, but that must be done.” That has served me well both in my career, and in my marriage.
Find a community, find friends — you’ll need that no matter what. I find a lot of comfort and support through my church and through God. They help in times when it doesn’t feel like I can do everything all at once, and have provided a shoulder to lean on, a helping hand, and guidance when I needed it. If you’re a caregiver, you need people and a positive outlet to keep you sane!
What is the most rewarding aspect of this role?
There are hard moments for sure, but my love and time with Anne was part of my promise to her and God when we married. My ultimate reward will be when my Father in Heaven says, “Well done, good and faithful servant” and when Anne in her glorified body, runs to greet me!