Sunday, March 11, 2012

Lecture from Care Givers

My aunt is recovering from a heart attack she had on Thursday. She is 82 and the full time care partner for her 85 year old husband who has an oxygen tank and dementia as well as other things. She is small, very sweet, shy and bakes the best jam tart I have ever and will ever have.

Her neighbor visited her in hospital, and told her that he isn't surprised that she had a heart attack. She does everything. He thinks she does too much.

I know that she keeps the house, herself and her husband immaculate. Cooks, cleans, worries, smiles and no doubt cries alone. She always has.

AND here is my lecture. It is to that neighbor and all the other people who tell, instruct and criticize care givers for giving supposedly too much.
Let me tell you straight.
When you are forced into a position of care giving - you do so with all your heart, power and more.
You do not stop paying attention to things that you have always paid attention to. Your personality does not stop - in fact it grows, as does your heart and soul. You do not stop loving your husband because he is dying.
It is the opposite. We did not say "in sickness and in health, and by sickness I only mean a cold and nothing too serious."

AND thank you for imagining that among the duties of a care giver, that we can find the time and energy to request specific help AND to adapt life and a new routine to bend to what the family, friends and neighbors can or are willing to do. Thank you for hiding away with the knowledge that you once said, in passing "I can help, just ask me."

SO if you want to help, don't ask. Just do it. Jen arrived here on Friday with a bag of healthy food and a idea of what to do. No questions, no fuss, no phone calls, she just did it. She placed tulips in the dining room and an African Violet in the kitchen. She hugged me, hugged David and got him involved, while I had the freedom to work. Again, she just did it.

AND sometimes - dear neighbor, family, friends who says "you just need to tell me what to do and how to do it" - all the care giver needs, is for you to be with his or her partner, while they can just close their eyes and breathe without interruption. Care givers are actually not thinking about you and how to make your support giving easier. We are too busy cleaning the bathroom to stop and write a list out for you.

Help before or after a heart attack does not come in the form of a telling off and I told you so, while puffing your own chest when you have done absolutely nothing apart from air your voice loudly!

One empty promise is too much whereas we can never have too much milk or water in the fridge.

Get well Aunty Violet. I wish I were there.

1 comment:

  1. First of all I know a lot of what you are going through.No it was not my husband who had memory loss, so not quite .My husband had been seriously ill when we were 40 yrs old,Cancer, My youngest child was in 5th grade.It was scary I had to ask people to help.Ihad a bussiness and needed to pick him up from chemo every three weeks.When I asked they came. The next year I opened my home for a special needs women and her father with late stage alzhiemers. Yes they were not my husband (that is worse)father-in-law and sister-in-law.My bussiness only lasted 5 months and then I became full time caregiver. Yes people offered help.At first I felt like you seem to.I would think "why don't they just come ,they know what I need". Then one day I realized ,people (most) do want to help but they have lives to. They do'nt want to be intrusive and are busy.When they say "what can I do"? Answer well I could use an hour to shop or could you come visit.If your husbands siblings ,children or parents are able ,drop him off or ask for specific things or times. We as a society do not get in other peoples bussiness without an invitation. Now this may not help they may be unwilling to help you but you can find respit.I asked my inlaws to take turns every saturday night ,I sent for pizza had evening planned pjs set out movie ect .I went out for dinner and they held down the fort.You ultimately are in charge of your life,as your Aunt is.It will be hard to make decisions that take away your husbands coices. I did send both to daycare for awhile.There are agencys who will come in and clean ,help people be independent .There is even food -grocery stores who deliver.I found out I didn't have to do it all.Ask people ,don't expect them to know what you need.If they don't come through ,well then get outside help.Like your Aunt what good are we when we are in the hospital or worse.The ill person will be cared for by someone when we can no longer do it. I really feel for you ,what a tough situation you are in .Take care of yourself mentally as well as physically.The next time someone says "can I help?" Give them a task.


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