As hus­band heals, care­giver strug­gles

The Buffalo News - - LIFE COLUMNS -

Dear Carolyn: My hus­band is bro­ken – there is no other way to put it. Years of chronic pain led to mul­ti­ple surg­eries with ex­tended hos­pi­tals stays. Phys­i­cally and men­tally he is worn out. He hasn’t worked in two years, so he re­lies on me for ev­ery­thing.

By some mir­a­cle, he is get­ting bet­ter. He is de­ter­mined to re­turn to his prior job, which he loved but is most likely un­re­al­is­tic. Our bank ac­count – and my emo­tional bank ac­count – needs his con­tri­bu­tion. I want to be en­cour­ag­ing, de­spite be­ing very, very tired of be­ing his cheer­leader. There is a chance he could get his job and life back, but it will be a long, dif­fi­cult road.

I feel like putting all the cards on the ta­ble. I think we have to ad­mit – out loud – that he is bro­ken, weak, trau­ma­tized, and far away from where he wants to be.

Any sug­ges­tions on how to broach this with­out be­ing mean? How to tell him he needs to take a me­nial job to help out, in­stead of try­ing to achieve ev­ery­thing at once? Again, I want to be sup­port­ive, but I feel we need to be hon­est, re­al­is­tic. And I feel he owes me a ba­sic con­tri­bu­tion in­stead of reach­ing for the stars.

– Tired

How would that help him get stronger, or at least strong enough to con­trib­ute again?

I’d say the truth that most needs air­ing is that you are bro­ken, weak(ened), trau­ma­tized, and far away from where you want to be. At least in your own way, emo­tion­ally and even fi­nan­cially. No?

It’s not your fault. You’ve been un­der enor­mous pres­sure to carry the house­hold and his care. Ob­vi­ously he’s had it worse, but his man­date all along has been to get well. That’s big, drain­ing, painful, but also very stream­lined and clearly de­fined, with no pulls in other di­rec­tions.

Now that he’s heal­ing, he can wi­den his scope. This is an amaz­ing de­vel­op­ment, and his as­sum­ing more of a role can be heal­ing for you both.

That’s what I hope you ad­mit out loud: that you are so happy he’s look­ing to get back to his old job, and will sup­port that as you can, but hope it’s also the right time for you to ask him to help you. Is he open to dis­cussing ways to work at a less de­mand­ing job while he re­gains his strength? People want to hear how they can help, not how use­less they are.

For bro­ken wife:

Care­giv­ing in gen­eral is hard, but the in­vol­un­tary type is of­ten soul-break­ing, with epi­demic lev­els (95-per­cent-plus) of de­pres­sion. It’s worth a visit to your doc­tor for screen­ing. – Anony­mous 1

Please seek out a care­giver sup­port group. You’ve earned some time with people who un­der­stand. There is no need to ever go through this alone.

–Anon2

To: Tired: Re: Tired:

The writer can con­tact her lo­cal govern­ment vo­ca­tional-re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion people. There are ser­vices avail­able to help him find in­terim em­ploy­ment suit­able to his cur­rent phys­i­cal abil­i­ties.

–Anon3

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