When we think of separation anxiety, the usual mental image that comes to mind is of a pet or a child. But if you're a caregiver with a permanently homebound spouse, you may have already seen some of the signs.
Being homebound can be a lonely existence. You, the caregiver, are likely still in the workforce, and friends tend to drop away; they may have visited in the early days of the homebound state, but eventually they just don't know what to say.
So you may find your husband or wife making small talk when you're leaving for work, asking questions that seem almost silly; the talk is subconsciously intended to delay your departure for just a few minutes more.
And you may find that on your return, there is someone looking out through the window and he of she has been there for awhile. Waiting.
Weekends may start well, but around late Sunday your mate will become silent and glum, looking forward to another lonely week.
What can you do? Staying home's not an option for most, and it's not really a great idea. Separation anxiety's an illness; you don't get anywhere by treating the symptoms.
Here are some suggestions. Not all will work in every case, but hopefully everyone reading this will find one that seems helpful.
- Encourage activity - if your spouse has an interest in anything, be as supportive as you can. Some interests aren't practical, but if your husband still wants to build that brick patio you know he'll never finish...why not make it possible for him to lay at least a ew bricks a day? Yes, your yard will have that 'under construction' look, but it may be worth it to keep him from getting entangled in your coattails.
- Encourage engagement - there are internet forums that cater to almost every interest, and when personal visits come few and far between, the internet can be at least a partial substitute. And encourage on-line gaming (such as Sci-Fi role-playing) if your mate has even the slightest inclination.
- Keep your mate informed - if you're going to be late because you ran into a friend at Wal-Mart on your way home from work, don't leave your wife hanging. Let her know when you expect to be back.
- Do TV church - if your mate can't attend services, set aside a time on Sunday to watch serves on TV that you both enjoy, and talk about them afterwards.
- Make the most of your time together - distancing is a very real part of terminal illness. It's natural, and to some degree unavoidable, as you, the caregiving spouse, are preparing for that final goodbye...and your mate drifts into an unwanted world of pain and fatigue. But the time you spend together...make it fun. You see, the biggest factor in separation anxiety among the terminally ill is not the immediate loneliness and isolation. It's the loss of a life in which the patient felt valued, felt like a contributor. If you can make your terminally ill husband or wife know that they're as important to you as you are to them, you've done a lot to take care of the problem - at the root.
What do you think? What did I leave out?
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.
WE ARE MAKING A DIFFERENCE!
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.