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Sunday, November 20, 2016

Your Dying Spouse 235 - Caregiving And The Holidays

The holidays can be emotionally tough when your husband or wife is terminally ill...this may be the very last Christmas.

The funny thing is that the thought may not bother your mate all that much. Earlier this evening I dealt with dry heaves that I thought were going to tear me in half, and to be honest, I didn't really have the time for sentimentality.

And something like that happens every day; often several times a day.

It's a bit hard to be nostalgic when the next moment may be awful beyond any rational consideration.

But I digress...there are certain practical things you can do to make your life as a caregiver quite a bit easier over the holidays - to say nothing of that of your spouse.

  • Don't talk up complex plans; when you're ill, your mind's like a narrow shelf. Push something on the front, something else falls off the back, and that's really frustrating to now about yourself. You mate may have a very limited capacity of processing and retaining the information you'd like to convey. Break the message into smaller parts, each with a clearly defined start and end. Instead of saying, "We'll get a tree and decorate it and then have hot cocoa and watch It's A Wonderful Life and then we'll cann out-of-town family..."NO. Just ay, "Let's go get a tree." leave the rest for later.
  • Don't accept or decline invitations to parties or gatherings on your own; make your spouse part of the decision-making process. There is nothing more dehumanizing than having someone else making decisions for you, and presenting a fait accompli.
  • When accepting invitations, be aware that travel time will run down your mate's energy. The road bumps that a healthy person takes for granted can really hurt when you're sick.
  • When at the party, you have to keep an eye on your husband or wife, and when  before you see energy starting to flag, it's time to go. (That correction was suggested by Peggy Booher, a wonderful and wise friend.)
  • Be careful about planning a 'Christmas Shopping' excursion. While you may feel it would be a tonic (and your mate may feel the same way) the crowds and sensory input can be overwhelming...not the mention the long walk from ad to a parking spot.
  • This is going to sound unfair...and it is...but avoid Christmas music or movies that put you, the caregiver, into a melancholy and sentimental mood. Your mate may well not be able to deal with that, an those media choices are just that...choices. Don't set your own triggers. Not now.
What do you think? Is there anything you'd add, or anywhere you think I'm wrong? Please, speak!

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 Ariel Sharon) and a short commentary.

And now that October's over...I'm going to keep it going.  I hope you'll join me.

Marley update...he's probably going to be moved to a sanctuary, and Bay County will revise their 'dangerous dog' codes.


He's up over 200,000 signatures, but PLEASE keep the pressure on. If you haven't signed, please do! Please click o his name in the paragraph below.

If you have a moment, 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.

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  1. When I was dealing with a loved one's terminal illness it meant a lot that they got me a gift by mail order even though it wasn't wrapped.

    1. That's what I do for barbara, though we can only afford 'nominal' gifts, like gloves or a winter wool cap. They stay in their shipping wrapping until Christmas Morning. It's still fun.

  2. These are things that a caregiver would not know if you don't tell them. My dear husband Richard loved Christmas. I wasn't in the mood to deal with all that went into it. But he wanted it! So we did it! Now that he is gone I don't want any part of it but I have grandchildren. So I'll do it for him!! Take it easy Andrew!

    1. Paula...doing it for Richard. You brought tears to my eyes with that. Thank you.

      I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

  3. No Andrew, I'd say you are NOT wrong with your thoughts about this season and caregiving and your situation and that of many others! That first one, for all times not just during the holidays...that really hits HOME for me...in fact, just this very afternoon I was trying to explain how Thanksgiving would go for us...as "wordy" as I can get with my writing...yeah, I get that way in talking or explaining as well!! So, yes, I definitely need to break it down into smaller thoughts!!

    Thanks for always bringing out things that need to be considered! Blessings and hugs to you and Barb; may you cherish all that you can be thankful for!!

    1. Barbara, thank you so much for sharing this, how you go about explaining how Thanksgiving would 'go'. I find that difficult, myself.

      Hugs back, and we hope you have a good Thanksgiving Day.

  4. Hey Andrew ... you've packed this little post full and solid with smart and practical cautions and wisdom.

    The 'narrow shelf' image is so spot-on ... and certainly all that sensory overload stuff.

    Yikes. Even at my healthiest, I'd much rather stay away from parties, malls, loud music, and any kind of complex plan.

    Blessings to you and Barbara as you navigate another holiday season ...

    May there be pockets of joy, of hope tucked here and there for you to savor.

    1. Linda, thanks so much for being here today. And I do agree with you - at my best I preferred to go bush and celebrate the season with just God.

      Blessings to you and yours, and our wqrmest wishes for a bright Thanksgiving.

  5. This is very good advice! Thank you for sharing. You mention things that are hard for me, like bumps in the road, that I've never heard anyone mention before.

    I am praying for you this holiday season.

    Grace and peace,

    1. Rachel, yes...those bumps in the road can really hurt!

      I am praying for you as well, and hope that you have a lovely Thanksgiving.

  6. Andrew, all of your suggestions make a whole lot of sense. Being attuned to where a sick loved one is at mentally, emotionally, and physically is wise for a caregiver. Our loved one may be up for a party or a shopping excursion, but we the care givers need to be aware of when it's time to go. I need to remember that with my healthy introvert husband and my energizer bunny boys. They each can only take so much of the things I enjoy. Even more for someone who is sick.

    Praying for you, friend.

    1. Jeanne, you're exactly right in that the caregiver has to maintain a kind of overwatch - as hard as it is for me to say this, a caregiver has to be a kind of careTAKER as well, taking the decisions that are needed.

      I so appreciate your prayers, my friend, and hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

  7. Great list as always, Andrew. The only thing I can think to add is that the caregiver think of asking the terminally ill spouse what he or she would appreciate doing or not doing for the Christmas season. I don't know that they could add more ideas to what you've shared, but the gesture of the caregiving spouse wanting to know what he or she could do goes a long way. Happy Thanksgiving to you and Barbara, my friend! I hope it is full of more joy and relaxation than the pain and constant trials you face. Praying!

    1. Beth, thank you! You're absolutely right; the caregiving spouse should ask. The answer may be surprising...

      I, for instance, would love to spend a few hours at a mall, in the Food Court, just watching the people and listening to the music. It's something I rarely did "in life", but it's an experience I'd love to have one more time. (There's no way it'll happen; I'm not well enough to make the trip.)

      Thank you so much for the prayers, Beth. Praying for you as well, and wishing you and yours a wonderful Thanksgiving.