This month’s Real Simple magazine had a great, thought provoking article in it. It was about a happily married older couple. The husband happens to have MS (Multiple Sclerosis) and his wife is his primary caregiver. It was written in an interview format, which gave each of them an opportunity to share their thoughts. The husband has lost most of his strength and needs help with most things in his day. The wife wakes up early to help him bathe, get dressed, give him medicines, eat breakfast, and then heads off to work for the day. Then, after work she comes home to help him once again. She often falls asleep on the couch and he then has to wake her up to get them both to bed. Both of them live in fear everyday. She is afraid that something will happen to her and she won’t be able to take care of him. He is afraid that something might happen and they would be apart. Wow.
I can relate to this woman having taken care of Ian this last year. I had to help Ian with eating, bathing, dressing, etc. I can tell you that it is HARD to take care of your spouse. And she does this everyday. Without complaining. With no chance of improvement. I don’t think I have ever stopped to think about what life might be like for people going through something like this.
A few days ago, as I was driving the boys to school, I saw an elderly couple standing on a sidewalk. I noticed that the man was holding a cane and waving it around. It took me a second to realize what was going on.. He was trying to hit his wife with it! I slowed down and looked again to make sure I was right. As I watched them through my rearview mirror I saw him push her. This sweet lady just backed away from him, but stayed close. My heart started pounding and I wasn’t sure what to do, but I decided to stop and see if I could help her.
To make a very long story short, it turned out that the elderly man had Alzheimer’s Disease. The man probably didn’t know who his wife was and was trying to protect himself from her. The sweet wife just stayed close to protect her husband. I cannot even begin to imagine what it must be like for her. It must break her heart to look at the man she loves, the father of her children, and have him not know who she is. And worse, trying to hurt her.
I ended up taking the boys to school as a couple of police officers showed up to help. When I was driving home I couldn’t stop thinking about them, so I decided to see if I could find their home and introduce myself to see if there was anything that I could do to help. It was easy to find the house since it had two police cars parked in front of it.
I sat in my car for a few minutes not knowing what to do. I wanted to know more, and to see if I could help in any way. I got brave and walked up to the door to ring the doorbell. The sweet elderly lady came to the door and smiled. I told her my name and that I had seen what happened and asked if there was anything that I could do for them. I told her that I understood a little of what she was going through (taking care of Ian and three kids) and that I know it is hard. She agreed that it was hard and I could see sadness in her eyes. The police officers were talking loudly to the man, telling him that he couldn’t leave the house. I wasn’t sure if there was anything that I could do, but I wrote down my name and phone number for her. I told her to let me know if I could ever pick up groceries or something for them. I asked if it would be okay with her if I stop by to check on them. Thankfully she said yes.
In two days I have learned about two situations where the wife is her husband’s caregiver. I’ve experienced that myself and I know how hard it can be. The article in Real Simple talked about how the caregivers often fail to take care of themselves. I can totally see that. My heart goes out to these women and men who care for a family member who is sick or has a disability. I can understand some, but not all of what they may be going through. Ian is getting more and more independent each day, so I have less to do for him. He actually doesn’t need my help much anymore. I am so grateful for that. It is great for me, and even greater for him!
I’m not sure why God has placed these situations in my life. I’ve prayed for God to use me in whatever way he wants. Maybe I’m supposed to help these people? Maybe bring awareness to others? At the very least, I can pray for them. Will you pray, too? Will you share examples of others that you know? I’d love to hear about real life stories like this. I plan to bake some cookies and stop by to check on the elderly couple this week. I will share what happens..