Oroville Mercury-Register

Caregiving spouse is overwhelme­d

- Contact Amy Dickinson via email at askamy@ amydickins­on.com.

DEAR AMY » My wife was recently hospitaliz­ed, and, as I have done previously, I sent messages to family and her friends to let them know her status.

After each message, I received many in return, some asking questions that required a personal response.

When my wife was about to be discharged, I received multiple offers to help with shopping and other chores.

I had to write a tactful response to each, explaining that her diet has to be carefully controlled, so I have to do the shopping.

I have such mixed feelings about the incoming messages.

It is wonderful that family and friends care, but the volume of traffic requiring a response has been a burden on me at a difficult time.

What do you think is the proper protocol when receiving an update on CaringBrid­ge, or through a mass email like mine?

Should people think good thoughts but maybe not respond directly?

Respond with a banal thanks/best wishes message?

Or demonstrat­e interest and caring by asking for more informatio­n, thus creating a stressor for the caregiver?

Thanks so much for the insights in your column, which I read in the LA Times.

I look forward to your thoughts on this puzzler. — M, in Santa Barbara,


DEAR M » I think it is normal, rational, and thoughtful to respond quickly and directly to a CaringBrid­ge message or a group email when the message contains an important update about someone you care about.

I completely understand the stress that these messages can create.

However, even though you cannot control when or how people respond, you CAN control their expectatio­ns regarding a return response from you.

At the end of each of your email updates, you should include a couple of sentences like this: “Thank you all for your caring and concern. It means so much to both of us. I hope you understand that unfortunat­ely I cannot respond promptly, if at all. I do read and appreciate each and every message, however. We are fortunate to have so many thoughtful friends.”

Put this message in bold print, so people make sure to see it.

It would also be helpful if you could assign a savvy and sensitive friend or family member to coordinate any needs that your circle of friends can fulfill, whether it is helping out for a few hours by cooking, cleaning, driving, or reading aloud to your wife while you rest.

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