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Sunday, September 13, 2015

Your Dying Spouse 56 - To Avoid Going Mad...

Being a caregiver will eat you alive, if you let it...and not to let it, you've got to be proactive.

Your terminally ill mate will probably want to stay in the workforce as long as possible, and you should encourage this.

Dying is above all demeaning; the process of a slow death takes away so many of the things that give us self-respect and a feeling of self worth (and the right kind of pride) that anything one can do to combat or at least delay the process is helpful.

But one day, he or she will be home for good...and you will become the primary social contact, and the sole-source for physical and emotional care.

It's natural, and expected...I mean, you didn't marry not to be the support when the "or worse" part of the vow comes to call, right?

But it's still hard, and it's draining. You may literally have someone following you around the house while you're doing chores, or insisting on going to the store with you when yo'd always shopped for groceries and clothing alone.

And you'll want to scream. Not because he or she is unpleasant, You'll want to scream because they're always there, and there are times when all of us need privacy; shopping or vacuuming alone is where we build it in.

To be blunt, they're trespassing on the parts of life that are subconsciously staked out as yours,

You can't diplomatically turn them away without hurting feelings, sometimes quite badly. But what you can do is encourage other activities that will provide a form of respite care that will benefit your spouse, and will benefit you.

The simplest way to do this is to simply encourage interests (within reason). If your husband picks up a magazine on fly-fishing, and allows how he might like to learn to tie flies, don't denigrate it, even if you loathe both fishing and fish. It's a cheap hobby, and even if he can no longer go out to fish himself he can develop[ friendships with people who do...and maybe he can supply them with custom-tied flies.

It will keep his head 'in the game' that much longer, and keep him connected with the world. All for the cost of fishhooks, twine, feathers, and some small tools.

A pet can help, too. Perhaps you've been too busy to get a dog, but your wife grew up with them...and now she's more homebound than not.

The house gets awfully lonely when you're the only one there, and you can't leave. I know; thatis where I am today.

The sound of canine footsteps, the happy bark, even the "Uh, Rufus? Don't lift your leg...uh, there...oh, crap" add life to the world.

And little (or big) Rufus will take the burden into his furry shoulders. (Yes, we have a Rufus; he's a Jack Russell.)

It's easy to fall into dependency, and hard to crawl back out. With a little bit of thought and foresight, you can improve quality-of-life for both your spouse and yourself.

And who knows? You may decide to take up fly-fishing...accompanied to the stream by..."Uh, Rufus? No, please, don't eat the fis...oh, well. More where that one came from, I reckon."

We're linked to Inspire Me Monday and Wedded Wednesday.


  1. I would think it would be so easy, if you are the caretaker, to make your terminal mate's world that much smaller, simply because you fear what any of these interests might cost them physically. But not doing those interests will cost them more! I am so glad you've kept your mind and heart active in your work here at BAPH and in your writing ambitions, just to name a few, Andrew! It has made an obvious difference for you, and all of us who visit. Thanks for staying engaged with your passions and purpose and encouraging the rest of us to do so as well. :-)

    1. Beth, you're exactly right. The intention, to protect one's spouse from activities that might exert a high physical cost comes from pure motives.

      But its effect is catastrophic. In the extreme, it's forcing someone into an infantilism that they neither want nor deserve.

      I do value this work, for the outreach and for the chance to keep my mind sharp. There is danger here; pain dulls the mind, and hopelessness sets that in stone.

      But I am still here, and intend to be here for awhile yet.

  2. Sweet and sensitive.
    From what I hear, this post may also be helpful for those with recently retired spouses who are getting used to having more time on their hands.

    1. Michele, you're absolutely right. I once read in Readers' Digest (the fount of all wisdom!) of a woman who had raised children, and kept the house of an upper-level executive.

      But he retired, and he was coming home to stay. HER home. Her workplace.

      And her prayer was - "Please, God, help me make him feel welcome!"

  3. Oh, you've hit the nail on the head, Andrew! When someone is suddenly homebound (whether it's for weeks or months or years), it can certainly drain the spouse--especially if they're an introvert and accustomed to a measure of independence and 'staked out time/space.' You have some great suggestions!

    1. The personality type does play a huge role; the introvert whose identity is found in the ability to have personal time far from the madding crowd - and that's me - will find the sudden 'imposition' of an extra body (albeit one they've chosen to marry!) well-nigh impossible.

      It takes a lot of maturity to make it work out reasonably well. A LOT.

      I;m so glad you're here today!

  4. So true! All of it...both your description of the problem and some solutions! Kudos to Rufus for helping ease the burden! :)

    1. Rufus says,"Thank you!" He's really a wonderful little guy. Just a bit hard-headed, is all.

      The most common phrase here is "Rufus? Rufus! RUFUS!!!...Oh, crap."

  5. Andrew, is there a way to contact you in a private email or somewhere on this blog? I'd like to invite you to write a guest post for my blog sometime in the near future. Here's my email, nlbrumbaugh@gmail.com, or if you want, I can leave a phone number if that is better for you. Blessings, Norma

  6. Your images had me smiling, Andrew! Especially that of your Rufus and the "crap" and even the "fish"...

    Yes, hobbies are good and I pray you have a few that you can handle...well, I do know of one! You share encouraging words on your blog, even replying to comments of your readers!

    And, having your "loved one" tag along...I sure know how that feels! My hubby does not have any hobbies except for walking and keeping up a file system on family and friends; and he does attend church on Sunday. Other than that, if he goes anywhere, it's usually with me: grocery shopping, to a monthly breakfast, to visit family, occasionally out to eat (but he prefers staying in)...so, yeah, I get it!

    And a pet, well, I already aluded to your pet...we have a cat. She is MY cat; but curls up beside him a lot because he sits there mindlessly petting her...she is in her favorite spot!

    Continuing to think of you and Barb; and praying for you both...

    1. Barbara, you face such challenges...my prayers are with you.

      I do still try to work upon aeroplanes. Some might say the very limited energy I have (about an hour on a very good day) makes is a pointless exercise...but without dreams, what is life?

      I so appreciate the prayers. The past 48 hours have been hell, and things are not getting better.

  7. Andrew, I love love love this post. I think you and I (and Barbara and Rick) could talk for hours about what you just said right here - and then probably laugh for another hour. Always thinking about and praying for you.

    1. It is my earnest hope that the meeting will somehow take place...on THIS side of the veil.

      It would be fun.

      Thank you so much for the prayers. Things are kind of bad right now.