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Sunday, October 16, 2016

Your Dying Spouse 220 - Your Best Caregiving, Rejected

This is a tough one. Sometimes you do your very best for your sick husband or wife, with the best execution and intentions your can bring, and it's thrown back in your face.

That hurts. I know I have done that to Barbara.

It's either not enough, not done well enough...or it can be 'too much' and 'smothering'.

As I see it, there are several distinct reasons for what seems really atrocious behaviour on the part of the patient.

  • Pain and fatigue are high, and you're the 'easy' target. This is perhaps the most excusable reason, but no amount of discomfort is a justification for uncivil behaviour. It is your grace, as the caregiver, to overlook this kind of lapse of courtesy; you may or may not get the apology you deserve when the symptoms recede.
  • What you've done is perceived as stepping on your patient's pride. Suck people can be prickly, and every step toward helplessness is a threat not only to their fading self-image of independence, but to their inward claim to adulthood. No one wants to be dependent as a child.
  • You've tried to meet a need that isn't there. When one marriage partner is forced from the workforce by illness, and the other continues, there's a 'drifting', a loss of connexion. It can't be helped, because the pace of work is rapid, and the life-pace of illness can be glacial. You're no longer synchronized. It's hard to put yourself into that 'slow lane', and the temptation is to do for your spouse what you imagine you would want done for you. And sometimes it's the wrong thing.
  • You haven't met a need that IS there.. As a personal example, I find that I now do not understand comedy; Barbara goes to the library every Saturday to check out a few DVDs, and she understand that I need either serious fare like 13 Hours, or escapist movies like Thor. If she thought I needed a laugh instead, she'd be way off base (regardless of Norman Cousins' thoughts on the curative power of laughter).
  • Your mate is being entirely unreasonable, and is spoiling for a fight. He or she can't fight God over the question of Why is this happening to me! she your husband or wife will gladly fight you.
This is one post in which I won't repeat my mantra that it's not about you. If you miss a legitimate need, or supply a solution to one that's nonexistent, yeah, you've messed up.

But these are usually pretty rare, because most caregivers are clued-in and attentive, They want to do their best.

So, for the most part, if you're excoriated when you've done the best you can...it's not about you

It's about pain, or fear, or merely the fact that everyone gets to be a jerk for a day, and that is the day your mate's chosen.

Much to my surprise, I decided to participate in a '31 Days' blogging exercise; rather than interrupt the flow of this post, I have another blog established, "Starting The Day With Grace". The focus is a grace quote from someone you might not expect (like, say Malcolm X) and a short commentary. I hope you'll join me.

Marley update...he's received a lot of support, but STILL NEEDS HELP TO BE SAVED.


He's up to nearly 200,000 signatures, but the local authorities are dragging their feet. They think that we'll give up and go away. We won't.

If you have a mment, I'd like to ask you to visit Change.org to consider a petition to free a 'death row dog' who has been separated from his family for ten months over a misunderstanding. Marley was saved from Afghanistan by a US serviceman; please help make sure this story doesn't end in needless tragedy! Marley's gotten a lot of support...but he still needs our help.

If you can, please do leave a comment. I am trying to answer all, and I am failing, but please know this - I read and treasure each one.

Below are my recent releases on Kindle -please excuse their presence in the body of the blog. I haven't the energy to get them up as 'buttons' in the sidebar. You can click on the covers to go to the Amazon links.


  1. I need this reminder, too, Andrew, because I tend to process pain as anger and to lash out at the undeserving. I'm always gobsmacked by your honesty.

    1. Michele, thank you so much! There is an old saying that applies here, I think...if we assume that pain causes impatience, well..."impatience is the sin of the just".

      Thank you so much for being here!

  2. Does Barbara read these contrite and thoughtful posts, Andrew? If she doesn't, she will miss out on so much of your beautiful heart that is on display here on the pages of your blog. Thank you for being so vulnerable and still so very practical. Hugs to you, my friend!

    1. Beth, she doesn't...her responsibilities at work have expanded so much that tonight )for example) she was making notes over dinner, on how to handle accounting protocols...and how to teach them.

      Hugs back, and so grateful that you're here!

  3. It is truly hard to be the caregiver and try to figure this all out on our own. It is good that you are putting it all out there for others to see. We never get to see this side of the coin. I sure hope you allow your wife to read your blog. But then again it might make you want to stifle your words. Good reminders Andrew!!

    1. Paula, thank you so much for this...knowing the road you have walked makes your thoughts precious.

      My wife does know where to find these essays, but she doesn't often read them as she's got a very challenging job. But I never know when she might drop by!

      Thank you so much for being here.

  4. I am reminded of something I heard long ago. The writer was talking about the caregiver of a cancer patient. The patient was belligerent, angry, uncooperative. The caregiver was discouraged, emotionally bruised, and weary. The caregiver was told 'the anger the patient is directing at you is anger at the disease which has robbed them of their ability to live like they used to.'
    I've thought of that in relationship to the caregiving of my elderly parents. It is frustrating for them and me. That's where grace has to come in. When I can extend grace it makes it easier for all of us. Grace is powerful for it changes our attitude. I learned this from a friend who had learned to act from a place of grace rather than frustration. It helps.

    1. Norma, you're in my prayers daily...and you're right, frustration is a huge stimulus to anger. I've been guilty of that, though not so often lately.

      And grace...yes, EXACTLY. When I've found it hard to extend grace as a person, I've tried to remember that I'm actually a channel, a conduit that can let God's grace flow...or choose to cut it off. I haven't done all that well, but there are times when I've remembered my true role...and for those I am grateful.

  5. a fascinating post, as ever, pal ...

  6. Andrew, thank you for your perspective. And for the reminder that there's a lot going on with the patient fighting illness that a "well person" may have difficulty relating to. One thing I hear in your posts is that, as a care giver, I need to be present with my loved one. Attentive in the moments I'm with them or serving them. Hard to do at times, but necessary.

  7. I can be really good at being a jerk.

  8. Once again, you nailed it! I'm sharing a link to this post in my weekly newsletter!