Caring for the Caregiver

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oven mitMy husband does a lot of research on his food allergies; suspected causes for food allergies, genetic links, studies to prevent or stop food allergies. He even looks into the different types of allergies and their reactions. I on the other hand look at what he can and can’t eat, things I could be doing around the house that might help like air purifiers, furnace filters, and even carpet vs. hardwood floors.

Because I do the vast majority of cooking in our house, and research on foods, when I’m away or ill it can be a struggle for him. Such was the case this past week. After a scheduled procedure I was left exhausted and in stitches. I am thankfully doing better, but still have to wait a few weeks to get the stitches removed and still struggling with some pain I wasn’t expecting. I can’t lift anything and am limited to what I can do until the stitches come out. This meant mom was not available to cook meals and fast food just isn’t an option with all my husband’s food allergies.

Anyways, with me sleeping long hours and in and out of pain throughout the day my husband and the kids have been making due with Annie’s mac and cheese, all natural hot dogs, Ian’s chicken nuggets and fish sticks, Cascadian Farm tater tots, and the few leftovers in the fridge. He’s been helping them in the kitchen and making sure that everything stays safe.

In the past we’ve struggled to keep my husband’s food safe while the kids are helping in the kitchen. This time it’s been much smoother and we’ve learned from past mistakes. It’s been interesting to watch him fill in on this roll over the past week. Showing the kids all the little tricks we both use to make sure his food is safe when we eat the occasional separate meal. Reminding them of our color coded pots, pans, and even pot holders so they knew what to use as our kids got to help make their meals.

I know that he is happy now that I am back on my feet and cooking meals again. Tonight we will have roasted pork loin with potatoes and carrots instead of yet another meal of leftovers or frozen chicken nuggets with a side of tater tots.

Who picks up the slack when the main caregiver is ill in your home? Do they know all your tricks and tips to keep your loved ones safe from their food allergies? Do you think about things like separate pots and pans, or potholders? We even have dedicated spoons and spatulas for allergy friendly foods. Share your tips and tricks with the rest of us in the comments.

When We Stuggle to Give Thanks

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Thanksgiving has come and gone, but even though I was looking forward to the holiday there were a few things I was struggling with then and still now. With my husband’s food allergies there’s always a concern with a large group that he’ll be safe, that he’ll get enough to eat, and that he’ll enjoy the day. It’s the same for all of us who have a loved one with food allergies this time of year so you all know what I’m talking about. Thanksgiving is a day to give thanks, even my seven year old son asked me what I was thankful for as we sat down to eat. I told him I was thankful for him, and he gave me that big toothless grin. His little thoughtful reminders can make my day, but I was struggling with more than concern this Thanksgiving:

  • When loss makes it difficult to be thankful. Just two years ago my grandfather passed away right before Thanksgiving. He meant a lot to me and even though he had been sick it was a difficult loss. That same week my husband’s cousin passed away in an accident. He was young and had so much ahead of him. These losses made for a trying holiday filled with tears. This year my husband’s grandmother passed away the week before Thanksgiving. She had this amazing laugh and piercing blue eyes. She always told stories of growing up in the sandhills of Nebraska and teaching at several country schools. Her death right before Thanksgiving made me think of all the families in the food allergy community who have lost loved ones recently to allergic reactions and how we were not the only family going through a difficult loss during the holidays.
  • Too many people not able to spend Thanksgiving with their families. Thankfully I was able to spend the entire day with my family, but I work in marketing for a large ecommerce site that also has several retail stores. So I was up early on Friday morning, at my desk, as the retail stores opened to handle any issues that came up. I appreciate that our stores are closed on Thanksgiving and that management understands that it’s more important for employees to have this day to spend with their families than to let customers shop in the store a few hours earlier. As a marketer I understand why stores think they need to be open, but hate that they treat their employees like this. I think it says more to consumers when you stay closed on Holidays. This also brought me back to my husbands many years as a law enforcement officer having to work these holidays. A quick meal and a hug before you head out again. Sometimes working on a holiday can’t be avoided. If you didn’t get to spend Thanksgiving with your family or those you care about my heart goes out to you. .
  • Family that won’t make the effort to serve a meal that’s safe. I love my family and for the most part they have been understanding about my husband’s food allergies. I sent my mom a great newsletter I had received that talked about what ingredients to avoid when picking out your turkey. Unfortunately not only was I too late, but the turkey she had already purchased was not safe. My grandmother was bringing a bone-in-ham so I was hopeful that this would be safe for him to eat. Early Thanksgiving morning I received a phone call about the ingredients of the ham, also not safe. Frustrated I blurted out to my mother; “It’s meat! Why do they put all this extra junk in it?” I thankfully had a small ham I knew was safe in the freezer.  I let my husband know of the change in plans, he was just as frustrated and voiced his concerns. He was really looking forward to turkey and now he couldn’t even have the nicer ham. We are able to find meat that is safe every day, it’s become habit for us. We know what to look for and what to avoid. If you’re not concerned about harmful ingredients your focus is most likely on size (will this turkey feed everyone) and is it on sale. We packed up the side dishes we were bringing; candied sweet potatoes, sweet corn from our garden, a gluten-free apple crisp, and our ham and headed out for the day. I don’t know what I expected, but was shocked when there was not even an apology directed towards my husband. We had a good day still visiting with family we don’t see often, a few games of Pitch (my grandfathers favorite card game), and good food.

Maybe my expectations are too high, but I couldn’t help think of my husband’s family and how accommodating they have always been since we shared his food allergy diagnosis with them. Even down to his cousins making allergy friendly rice krispie bars for him at family gatherings. I wish we as a community were more aware of food allergies instead of treating them as just another fad diet. My only conclusion to this Thanksgiving is that the next big family gathering with my family I will be bringing a main dish and not as many sides.