Sunday, 9 March 2008

For once, not all about Z

I cycled past a friend, who was walking her dog, and we waved to each other. Several years ago, her husband, who was then in his mid-sixties, had a severe stroke and she looked after him for several years before he had to be admitted into permanent residential care. She still visits him frequently, but has had to rebuild her life.

It can't be easy, can it? He wasn't an easy person even before he was ill, but afterwards it was hard for an independent and proud man to accept constant help and support, even from his nearest and dearest. When he first came home from hospital, she was offered help by social services, but she was so pleased to have him home and was optimistic, and turned it down. As life became more of a grind, she wished she hadn't - it can be more difficult to get help when there isn't an apparent increased need. He'd lost the use of one arm and was given physiotherapy and exercises to do, but he didn't like them. She told me that, once, he succeeded in moving his arm, but said it had hurt and he wouldn't try again; but the best chance of regaining movement is in the first year and if it's left too long a permanent disability remains. It's hard to understand why he would rather bear that than go through temporary pain, but it can be easier to criticise than to comprehend.

Eventually, as I said, she couldn't cope physically and he has settled down into nursing care. And I've always wondered how she felt as time went on - is relief tinged or even blighted by guilt? It shouldn't be; she had done absolutely all she could and still cares for him as much as ever. But friends whose spouses or parents have died after a long illness have found the same thing: that having your life back isn't as simple as it sounds. It can be difficult to learn to enjoy yourself again.

14 comments:

Dave said...

Did the dog wave back?

I'm independent, and don't like people making a fuss of me, which of course they all want to, now I'm too ill to work.

I also, whilst undergoing the eye operation, did wonder if being blind would be worse than the pain of the operation.

I hope, though, that I'm not as awkward as the gentleman you s=describe.

Z said...

Yes, darling, he used his tail.

Having an operation under local anasthetic is like having a baby; by the time you wish you'd made a different choice, it's too late to do anything about it.

I hope not too. I don't think you are. I hope I'm not either, but who knows how one will react?

Monozygote said...

You may be right, z, but I think in the case of an operation like dave's, it's an understatement.

At least, dave, the operation is behind you now.
x

Z said...

I understand that passing a kidney stone is the nearest a man can get to the feeling of childbirth without anaesthetic. That gives me vast sympathy for Dave. His eye operation was horrible in a different way; I hope it wasn't so painful.

Monozygote said...

Ooh. I read this weekend that pancreatitis was the closest thing. But I think I'd rather do child-birth than an eye operation any day.

Z said...

I think you've got more chance of that than Dave, at any rate.

martina said...

Dave, hope you feel much better very soon. Let your friends fuss about you-it makes them feel good.
Z-very well said. So many people forget themselves while caring for others. Caregivers need to take time for themselves so they are healthy mentally and physically for others.

dharmabum said...

quite unlike a regular z post, this one. how have you been?

i would think it is tough times, sickness. both for the convalescing and the caring. i did, although for a brief while, when my own mother had a problem with her back and it had her bed ridden, and immobile for more than a month. i'd initially found it hard, specially the times when she needed to relieve herself and all. i got used to it though, and slowly, found a joy in it. all the while though, i could see a certain pain in her eyes - arising from guilt probably, that father or i had to do the things we did. i wasn't sure if it was entirely necessary, as a kid, i'm sure she'd done the same things for me, so big deal :)

also, i'm quite an independent person too. and yet, if i do fall sick, and help arrives, i will accept it with gratitude, for i do believe it is He who helps. we are but instruments.

lots of food for thought, this post. thank you!

Z said...

Martina, it can be hard to find time for yourself, especially if the help is not offered, and a constrained lifestyle becomes habitual, unfortunately. One still wants to cherish the person who needs care, but there sometimes seems to be no one to cherish the carer.

Dharmabum, I used to find it hard to accept help, but I've been practising! All's well here, thank you for your concern - I'll be back to mindless jollity later.

The Boy said...

Poor both of them. As a man used to being "big and strong" one of the fears sitting at the back of my mind is how will I cope if and when I'm not? I'd like to think I wouldn't give up, but the depression has got to be severe.

As for being the caring one, that's tough in such a different way. You start with the right intentions, and love remains, but the resentment is also there. I'm glad these two found a solution.

Z said...

Hear, hear, Boy

john.g. said...

My situation exactly if my dad dies! I'm f*cked! Unless I can get government care, but with the compensation award I've got (but not received yet!), I will not qualify for care!

Z said...

Darling JohnG, I wish good health and a long life to your dad and all the best possible to you.

luckyzmom said...

I understand that it is much harder for men to recover from a stroke, than it is for women.