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April 19, 2014 / 19 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Taking Care’

My Answer (Part 3)

Wednesday, February 25th, 2009

       The last few articles have dealt with advice that an experienced caregiver can pass on to someone who is new at it. The articles were prompted by a letter I received from a former caregiver who was trying to help out a friend who recently found herself in a similar caregiving situation.

 

   Some of the issues she raised and which I addressed in the last weeks were:  How best to support her friend, what she can say, the lack of availability of a religious support group, dealing with clinical depression, reluctance to burden children, financial worries and where to get outside supports from agencies, etc.

 

    Today I’d like to address some of her other concerns.  The experienced well spouse was reluctant to make some suggestions to her friend, feeling that though they worked for her they might be inappropriate in the friend’s situation  - or worse, cause further depression. She was also concerned about the abuse, emotional and verbal, that was starting to emerge at the hands of the ill spouse.


 


Making Suggestions


 


        “I am reluctant to send her a book I liked very much (Taking Care of Mom, Taking Care of Me) because although it’s so upbeat, all the relatives were “end-of-life”!    My friend B”H, seems totally at a different point,” was what Mrs. D. wrote in her letter.

 

    It is very difficult to know how someone will react to our suggestions. Everyone brings their own experiences to whatever they engage in. That experience determines whether they will react positively or not about what you are suggesting. There is no way for you to predict their reaction. That is why I feel strongly that we always let adults make their own decisions about everything in their lives and never make decisions for them.

 

    Well spouses are powerless in so many ways because of the illness of their spouses. To make decisions for them about caregiving just takes away what little power they may have left. What you can do is to share your reasons for your recommendations, (whether it is a book, an action plan or even a specific doctor). Tell them why something may have worked for you and share why you are hesitant to recommend it to them. And then step back and let them decide what they will do.


  


Emotional And Verbal Abuse


 


     Unfortunately, it is quite common for well spouses to experience abuse at the hands of the loved ones they are caring for. This should never be allowed or even tolerated and must be nipped in the bud. The first time we experience abuse and just ignore it, we are giving it license to escalate. And it will escalate. Illness does not give anyone the right to be mean or nasty to those around them. Illness is not a license to mistreat another person. If you allow the abuse because “she is sick,” or convince yourself that “he really didn’t mean it,” the abuse will only get worse and become more frequent.

 

      It is OK, under such circumstances, for well spouses to be angry with those they are caring for. It is important that you express that anger at the inappropriate behavior. If you’re visiting your spouse in a facility and she becomes emotionally abusive, that is your cue to leave immediately. Make sure to tell her why you are leaving and that abusive behavior is simply not going to be tolerated.


 


    If you are at home, leave the room or the house if possible. Do whatever you need to (short of being abusive yourself) to make it clear that you will not just stand by and allow yourself to be treated in an abusive manner. 


 


One Last comment


 


     The letter writer said, “Actually what I had tried to tell her was that once you arrive at a certain acceptance of your spouse’s illness, that itself opens possibilities for good things to happen that arepossible.”  How true that comment is and how important hearing it is – for all of us on this journey of chronic illness. Whether you are an ill spouse or her caregiver, acceptance of the situation marks the beginning of getting on with your life and opens the possibility for positive things in the future.

 

    You will not be open to seeking solutions or trying them if you have not accepted “what is.”  Wishing illness away or grieving for the life you lost is a necessary part of the adjustment to a spouse’s illness, but those feelings must eventually be left behind if you want a future. You cannot look at how to make your life better or happier until you have accepted the problems that surround you. Whether it is modifications to your home, to your relationship or to your lifestyle, acceptance is indeed the first step to any positive experiences in the future, whether individually or as a couple.


 


You can reach me at annnovick@hotmail.com

A Letter To Seek Help For A Friend’s Mother, Coping With A Disabled Husband

Wednesday, February 4th, 2009

 Dear Ms. Novick,  

 

I have been reading your column in The Jewish Press for quite a while and enjoy it very much. It has been very helpful.  For many years, my mother, a”h, lived with us while she was going blind from glaucoma and becoming demented from Alzheimer’s.  G-d bless my wonderful husband and family for helping to love and care for her.  She was nifteres last month.


 


A friend put me in touch with his mother, and it is about her that I am writing. I have never actually met her or her husband.  He has a host of medical issues, along with a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s.   She is suffering.  I asked if there is a support group in her area, and she said she had attended one, but it was a general, non-Jewish group, and did not jive with her Torah way of life.  Having attended an Alzheimer’s support group here, I totally can understand that. I did pick up a few “tips” at the meeting I had attended. The atmosphere and general way of thinking, however, was not compatible to my way of thinking.


 


My friend’s mother does live in a frum community, but apparently there is nothing available there.   She works, during which time her husband is left at home, and basically “does nothing.”  He is clinically depressed, has heart issues, and is sometimes paranoid. He hasn’t worked for a few years, is on disability and she is worried financially on top of everything else.   On the other hand, during the course of my one conversation with her she informed me that once a week, her husband can and still does teach a shiur (with the help of a family member). When their married children come to visit, it livens everyone up, and they do visit as often as they can. But she does not feel that she can “burden”them with her and her husband’s issues, as their children have young families and live at least a couple of hours away, if not more.


 


Can you advise me as to any direction to point her in?  I told her to feel free to call, because I know that just a listening ear is helpful – and I mean it – I so feel for people who give care.  I read a book once, called The Best Friends Approach to Alzheimer’s (D. Troxel) which, as I remember, seemed to help a lot – the attitude was very upbeat. 


 


Any other book I had been referred to was so awful in approach. They were very depressing.  She told me, from what she picked up (two things) from our conversation was, that it was good to talk, and that she needed to accept the fact that some things would just not “get better or change.” Actually what I had tried to tell her, was that once a certain degree of acceptance occurs, that itself opens possibilities for good things to happen that are possible.


 I also recommended she call Ohel Family Services for a referral, since they are the only “group” I know about.  I told her that I would be writing you, as I don’t think she has easy access to the Internet.


 


I don’t want to say the wrong things.  I am reluctant to send her a book that I did like very much (Taking Care of Mom, Taking Care of Me, by Devorah Schloss) because although it’s so upbeat, all the relatives described were at the “end-of-life” situation!    My friend, B”H, seems at a totally different point. 


 


(She) is suffering because her husband is still relatively young, and all her hopes for him at his age seem to not only be dashed, but she feels overworked and, sometimes, abused -(emotionally and verbally). The money is tight, and she is worried (it) might run out very soon.


 


So here are two questions: what can I do or say to help (or not do or say), and can you offer any referrals?


 


Thanks so much for reading this and I will look forward to hearing from you. 


 
Sincerely,


Mrs. D


 

 

Dear Mrs. D.,

 

Thank you so much for your letter. I am sorry for the recent loss of your mother a”h.


 


I’m very glad that your family was so helpful when it came to caring for your mother. It is obvious from your letter that your journey as a caregiver has taught you a great deal. Perhaps more than you are even aware of. Our experience as well spouses or care givers for family members, is a tremendous resource. Your willingness to share it not only turns a difficult experience into something positive but it makes you a mentor. All this is something you need to be proud of. It is also clear that you have already been a big help to your friend. You raised some very common and interesting questions in your letter. I will try to answer them the next several columns.



Sincerely,


Ann


 


I can be reached at annnovick@hotmail.com

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/magazine/a-letter-to-seek-help-for-a-friends-mother-coping-with-a-disabled-husband/2009/02/04/

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