Sunday, August 23, 2015
Sick vs drunk caretaking
I often hear people telling me that I can’t possibly be a good caregiver for Riley because of all our past history. I’m told that it makes me hostile and that he would be better off in a nursing home. I don’t agree with any of that nonsense. I made a commitment to both my daughter and to Riley to “see this through” to the end. That’s what I intend to do.
When Riley returned home after having been in a nursing home for a week so that I could get some respite, his health had greatly declined. I called the hospice office and told them I believed that Riley had a bladder infection and that I needed a prescription for something to treat it. It took more than two weeks for someone to come get a urine sample for testing. Then it took about five days for the lab to report that he did, in fact, have a urinary tract infection. We received the medication late the next afternoon.
While we were waiting for the medication, Riley became increasingly sick. By the time I got the first dose into him, he was spiking a temperature of 100 degrees, was not eating, could not get out of bed, could not move his legs, had blood in his urine, and was hallucinating. I monitored him through the night and gave him Tylenol to try to break the fever. It reminded me of the times when my children would become ill and I would do everything I could to try to nurse them back to health.
I know and understand that Riley is in hospice and no heroic measures will be taken to prolong his life. But, it seems to me that the degree of his UTI seriousness should have been attended to in a more timely fashion. I don’t know what hospice was thinking. Was the attitude, well he’s dying anyway so there’s no hurry to do anything for him? Where does the line get drawn between what they will do to alieve his discomfort and just letting him go? If his arm was broken, would they not set it? If he fell and injured his hip, would they treat the injury?
It makes me angry because I was told that things of this nature would be treated. AND they did treat it – eventually. As of this morning he is feeling better and hopefully the UTI is going away. So, the next question, (asked by a well-meaning friend) what difference does it make to me? He’s a drunk who so abused his body with alcohol that he is fading away. With all the misery he has caused me in the past, why do I care that he has a UTI or anything else debilitating for that matter?
There is a point in time when the caretaker of an end-stage alcoholic switches gears and just becomes a caretaker of a sick person. Overall, it is difficult to be Riley’s caregiver. Not because of the indiscretions of our marriage, but because he brought this illness on himself. After years of doctors, family, friends, EVERYONE telling him he would kill himself with alcohol, he believed, and still believes, he is invincible to the consequences of alcohol abuse. I know, I know. It’s called denial.
That’s what makes it difficult for to be his caregiver. In Riley’s eyes, I am to blame for him being in the situation he is in. If I had not called the paramedics when he had his heart attack, he would be dead and we wouldn’t be going through any of this. Because I am to blame, he feels no drive to do anything for himself. I am to simply do as he says and do them the way he says for me to do them. That attitude did not work for him when we were a couple and it certainly doesn’t work for him now. But, I have to give him credit for consistency and perseverance – he keeps trying.
If Riley had never been an alcoholic and got cancer, I think my attitude would be different. If Riley ever once said “Gosh, I really screwed up” I would have a softer attitude and be much more attentive than I am. If he ever apologized for having to ask me for anything – anything – I would be more agreeable to meeting his needs.
However, when Riley was lying in his bed last night and I could see the discomfort on his face, I actually felt sorry for him. I wasn’t sorry for him being at the end of his life. I was sorry that he was sick on top of the dying situation. I wanted to help him so he could get some rest and feel better the next day.
When Riley was drinking the caregiving issue was very different. The goal then was to keep him contained so that he could not be a danger to himself or others. I didn’t try to cure him or force him into taking care of himself. All those detox and rehab experiences taught me that he would never cooperate in his own healing. My attitude was one of acceptance for what was never going to change.
We are now at the end result of his drunkenness. His party is slowing coming to a close. It’s time because to continue on is just a means to make him more miserable. I will not do anything to hasten the closing of his doors. I will let it run its course.
at 4:31 AM