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.