Help… Help… Help…
Hubby and I are two days into the fourth Covid-19 vaccination. He is oblivious to the possibility of a reaction, so I am worrying for the two of us. At 3:33 AM I woke to some small chest pains. I reached for my enormous bottle of Tums, chewed on two tablets, and was now full awake.
“If the pains subside, I am fine.” (I thought aloud.)
“If not… it is my heart.” (A flair for the dramatic… I must admit.) Grabbing for my I-Pad to play Spider Solitaire, I distracted my brain. Lying in bed with my wonderful molded foam pillow that holds the tablet, balanced on my stomach, within minutes – I felt an unexpected “thud.” I had fallen asleep and the I-pad had flopped onto my chest. Having forgotten about the chest pains completely, it was then 4:40 AM and time to return to slumber. Perhaps I should think of something else to worry about?
Waking again at 9 AM, I heard Violet and Hubby having a conversation at the dining table. He was well into his 5th ginger snap and his morning coffee had already been refilled. I joined them and Hubby began to recount his amazing night. He was full of excitement as he shared what had occurred while we were sleeping soundly:
“I went out in the night to our neighbor’s house.” He recounted.
“Their door was open but there was nobody there. It was amazing. Their home looked just like ours! I was surprised to see that there was another just the same! I went to the bedroom and saw a bed just like mine. I thought about getting into it, but then I thought that if the neighbors return, they will be upset to see a stranger in their bed, so I came home to my own bed.”
Hubby was really enjoying sharing his memory of a nighttime adventure that never happened. He was smiling and decided that I had not fully understood… so repeated it again. At moments like these, I am literally without words. I never know what to say. There is no reason to correct him, so finding an appropriate response is hard. I mumbled something to the effect of “I am glad you came home.” That momentarily closed the subject. This delusion has repeated a number of times. He believes it to be true, and I listen as if I am fascinated.
After his nighttime adventures Hubby was quite tired, so after breakfast he returned to his bed to relax. He began singing I’ve got you under my skin – which is a Sinatra favorite. When Violet helps him to get up from a chair, she says “I’ve got you…” and he responds by singing “…under my skin!” (a la Frankie.) Since the tune was still in his head, he continued serenading me until he drifted off into slumber-land.
It is such a relief to have silence in the house. There is no way that I can think, when Hubby is awake. I am not being dramatic. I am being accurate. Hubby constantly needs/wants something and I find myself unable to retain a train of thought.
This is status quo for a family member who is caring for their spouse. The only possible relief is to get an aide to assist so that there is more than one person to fill the endless list of requests and demands that Hubby conjures up.
The hardest part of getting assistance, was admitting that I actually needed it. In my weekly Zoom support group online, I have met my former self time and time again – in the women who are trying to do it alone. I specifically mention that women are reticent to have full time help in their home, because male spouses seem to take to the concept easily. Older men are quite accustomed to having someone relieve them of household chores such as cooking, cleaning and shopping for food. I hope I don’t sound too wildly feminist, but facts are facts even in this crazy world of political correctness.
Personally, the idea of having to give up the only spare room in our home which served as a studio for my jewelry supplies and workspace as well as wall to wall wardrobes (for the inevitable overflow which includes indispensable garments which I have not worn in twenty years…) was unthinkable. A full-time employee would have to sleep somewhere! The idea of giving up our privacy was truly daunting. As I listen to the other women recounting their personal reasons for waiting as long as possible to hire a professional aide, I remember the actual core emotion: Bringing in someone to help, meant giving up what remained of a normal marriage. In truth, I was clutching at the wisps of what remained. When even the remnants could not be enjoyed… it was time to concede.
Finding the right care-giver for one’s spouse is not simple. Hubby would never have allowed a man into the house. His instincts are that other men cannot be trusted, especially with his wife! I should be flattered, as any male care-giver would be thirty to forty years my junior. But Hubby is Hubby – and his reality bears little resemblance to my own.
Personality and attitude are important to assess when interviewing. But in truth, how much can one know after an hour chat? The best possible insights will come from previous employers if there are some available.
The first caregiver I brought to save the day, was hired in haste but had an excellent reference. She was strong, thorough, competent and helped Hubby get back on his feet after a hip fracture. She was clear when she told me that she had left previous employers when the husband became aggressive or unpleasant. I should have realized that under the tough façade she really could not handle stress. She announced that she was returning to home country because she missed her significant other. She gave me 48-hours’ notice, and off she went. I should have been suspicious when she said that the Sri-Lankan embassy was arranging her flight. At that time no one was flying anywhere because of Covid-19. I now believe that she was simply suffering from Hubby burn-out after more than six months of Corona lock-down. She never took a day off as there was no-where she was allowed to go. I did not admit that she could have been suffering from “Barbara burn-out” as well! Months later, she was seen walking with the two young children now in her care, in the center of town. Honesty was never her strong suit, but everything works out for the best.
Our current care-giver, Violet, worked for personal friends of ours for nine years. Knowing her for such a long time was the best referral of all. Everyone should be so lucky!
My days of being a heroine are over. I finally admitted that I cannot handle life as we now experience it daily. That admission has quite literally saved my life.