Hi, I'm Cristina Deptula, and I live near San Francisco. I'm in my late twenties, and I've assumed caregiving responsibilities for a very good friend I've known for seven years. She's a widow with children, estranged from her family for a variety of complicated reasons, and I'm basically all she has left (and we're trying to change that!)
She has adult ADD, narcolepsy, and Jealous and Persecutory Delusional Disorder - so she cannot keep to any kind of schedule, falls asleep at random times of the day and night, and has trouble getting along with others as she can get frustrated and paranoid. She's also the victim of emotional abuse as a child and domestic violence as an adult, and some of her issues stem from that. Now, she's
been diagnosed with ovarian cancer and is undergoing chemotherapy, and has diabetes and weight problems as a result of some of her mental health medications...and she's only 43!
I live about 45 minutes away and do a lot of work for her over the phone and email (selling items on Craigslist for her to help her make extra income, making and reminding her of medical and dental appointments, looking up social services and filling out applications, locating and hiring in-home supportive service
caregivers - she qualifies in Marin County to have someone help out around the house about two hours every weekday, which helps but she calls and texts at all kinds of random hours asking me to make phone calls for her, so she really needs someone who can be on-call, or a team of people.)
I'm all right helping her for now, but would like some way to know what's realistic for her to eventually learn how to do for herself and what she will need assistance with all her life and isn't fair to expect her to handle.
Also, I'm currently 'between jobs' and staying with my parents, who don't understand mental illnesses in general and believe my friend is simply taking advantage of me. It's awkward to have to step out of the house, excuse myself from dinner, etc to make phone calls or look things up online for my friend without them noticing and complaining, and my friend then gets mad about my procrastination and the delays in my helping her. And I don't have any money now myself, I'm selling some of my things on Craigslist to pay off a traffic ticket.
My friend only gets $700 or so a month from SSI disability, which ends up being $300 after she pays her rent. She has two teen children who are staying with her mother because she's too sick to care for them, who don't understand why they've never been able to wear new clothes, own IPhones etc like other young teens in Marin. We go on Craigslist every year to look for donated gifts but this year
the economy was so bad no one was able to come through and help, so we're looking for gifts after the holidays.
I'm looking into work-from-home opportunities so my friend can earn some money on her own and gain some more self-respect, even survey taking opportunities that aren't marketing ploys or scams. Also, something for me so I can help her out and get cash for the gas to drive to and from her place and regularly visit her...she's not near mass transit. I'm currently only making $12 an hour for a
part-time telecommute position that leaves my schedule free but leaves me broke!
Also - I'm looking into internship and full-time work opportunities which would be great for my career but which would leave me less able to care for my friend at random moments. The personal calls and time on the Net became an issue in my last fulltime job, and in order to work like a normal person, we really need a larger support system for my friend. I'm committed to NOT abandon her, but know that I'm going to need to recruit other caregivers to be able to move forward in
my own life, and my parents just took on another financial commitment and say they can't support me forever. I'm also in a relationship which may be heading towards marriage and children, and my boyfriend said a few months ago that if we're going to stay together I have to set boundaries with my friend so that our kids (and his emotional needs, etc) won't get shortchanged. For many reasons we need a group of other people my friend can call upon for help when she can't
reach me...as I'm not able to help out on call 24/7 for the rest of her life, even though I've been doing that since her husband died in September 2006.
So - does anyone here know where to go to recruit additional helpers as an internship-type opportunity? We can't pay for much of anything now but would be glad to reciprocate in other ways (resume editing, proofreading, letters of recommendation, etc?) I see blogs of well-connected poets, singers, etc who have whole legions of folks helping them out, sending care packages, checking in with them, etc and would like to know how to build a support network.
I recently posted this advertisement for assistance on Craigslist:
Please let me know what you think - I'm trying to strike a balance between compassion and trying to empower my friend to take care of herself.
Thanks, sorry for the long post!