When Life Suddenly Turns Upside Down: Being a Caregiver With Allergies
A few months ago, my world turned completely upside down when a close family member had a severe medical emergency. As a result, I became a full-time caregiver overnight, as opposed to being taken care of in the past due to my health issues, allergies included.
Becoming a full-time caregiver
While in the inpatient hospital, I spent most of my days there for over a month straight, which was a massive change from my usual environment. It severely impacted my allergies, along with my other health conditions. I was suddenly exposed to so much every day. I'm mainly used to staying home, so this was a shock to my system.
Stress and a new environment impacted my allergies
I found my allergies were much worse due to this and the severe increase in my stress. This was the worst winter in many years regarding my allergies. My nose was constantly running, my eyes itchy and dry, and even a hive appeared here and there. I was also eating different foods, sometimes having to improvise and pick something up in the hospital cafeteria. And those of us with allergies know what a risk that is!
One day, in a pinch, I picked up 1 hard-boiled egg, as it was the only thing I could find that seemed safe to eat.
Being exposed to new allergy triggers
Exposure to chemicals in cleaning products used in the hospital was a major trigger as I was caregiving full-time. I'm incredibly cautious regarding the cleaning products I use at home.
But in the hospital, I didn't have any choice. One day, I was sitting in the hospital room during visitation, and someone on the cleaning staff walked in during lunch. She was wearing a heavy-duty mask and began cleaning. She was using powerful chemicals, all while we were sitting there, eating lunch. Even wearing my mask, I felt my chest tightening. As the heavy fumes filled the room more, I had more difficulty breathing.
Lack of compassion or understanding
At some point, I had to leave the space. I couldn't take it any longer. As the chest pain and coughing continued, I feared I'd have a severe allergic reaction or skin flare-up. Thankfully, I didn't.
But to be honest, I was surprised that they could even clean like that while patients were eating. I mentioned it half-jokingly to the nurse at the nurse's station as she wondered why I was standing outside the room and pacing back and forth anxiously. I explained to her that I have several chronic health issues, and the chemicals were causing me extreme sensitivity and anxiety. She didn't seem to get it or care, in all honesty. While I was not patient, empathy and compassion were always appreciated.
Not everyone understands what it's like to have allergies
This shows how little people understand about allergies and other health issues. For about a month, I had to deal with situations like these and advocate for myself when needed. And now, I continue my role as a caregiver but now in an outpatient setting.
Despite not being a patient in the hospital, I still have needs and rights as a caregiver and human being. I had to remind some people of that for my own health and sanity.
In the end, it was a tough month, spending every day in hospitals as a full-time caregiver. My allergies really flared up due to stress and being in a hospital environment daily. But sometimes, life throws challenges our way, and we must accept them and do our best to deal with them. At the end of the day, that's all we can do, anyway.
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