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In Sickness and In Health
Bill_2001
Posted: Sunday, August 9, 2020 9:18 PM
Joined: 9/16/2019
Posts: 107


"In Sickness and In Health."

If one more well-meaning friend utters this phrase at me, I am going to scream. Of course I am going to take care of my dear wife as long as I can. Of course I am not going to abandon her in her time of need.

However, when I am frustrated, and just need someone to listen, this is the last phrase I want to hear. Few people's marriages have been tested like those with a dementia spouse / caregiver spouse dynamic. And uttering "In Sickness and In Health" at me does nothing to help me. Sure, other illnesses are difficult, and even terrible. But only Alzheimer's and dementia removes the spouse that you once knew, for YEARS and YEARS. Spousal caregivers have lost their dear wife or husband WHILE THEY ARE STILL HERE. We get no love, no intimacy, no conversation, no nothing. For years and years on end.

While they are going on with their lives, planning trips, or enjoying retirement, I get this phrase "In Sickness and In Health" tossed at me like it is supposed to make me feel better. Okay, so maybe they took care of their spouse when they had the flu, or recovered from surgery for a few weeks. None of that compares to having your heart torn out by the empty shell of the spouse we are caring for.

Friends, if you really want to make me feel better, instead of reminding me of my vows again, how about bringing over dinner, or offering to take care of my wife for a whole blasted day. Stop saying "In Sickness and In Health" to me. All that does is remind me of what I have lost.

I am sooooo grateful for all of you here. You just get it.


McCott
Posted: Sunday, August 9, 2020 11:42 PM
Joined: 8/22/2017
Posts: 490


Amen, Bill.  

I know people are at a loss for words when confronted with our difficult lives, but this one drives me crazy.  My husband's doctor even said it once, which really bothered me.  It's also condescending, like "tsk, tsk: remember your marriage vows," or "you asked for it, so now you've got it."  They don't know what to say, which is why we become more and more isolated, but can't they hear how this sounds??


DWck
Posted: Monday, August 10, 2020 2:56 AM
Joined: 5/26/2020
Posts: 23


Hi Bill

My problem is that I keep saying “in sickness and in health” to myself. Maybe to remind me of the vows we took. I do miss the conversation and sharing of memories. I’m fortunate in that my DH who has dementia still tells me he loves me every day and most days is in fairly good spirits. Sundowning can be a problem. Its been over two years for us on this journey. This forum is a blessing and a good place to vent which we all need to do. There is only so much support you can receive from friends and family who are living their lives and enjoying their retirement. You are correct in that they will never truly understand. Stay strong. 


Ed1937
Posted: Monday, August 10, 2020 5:58 AM
Joined: 4/2/2018
Posts: 3253


I have it so much easier than many on this site, but I would never hold it against someone if they said they were done with caretaking, regardless of wedding vows.
Doityourselfer
Posted: Monday, August 10, 2020 6:49 AM
Joined: 9/5/2017
Posts: 650


I plan to take care of my husband as long as I can too but I am looking forward to the day when this very heavy burden is lifted off my back.
Michael Ellenbogen
Posted: Monday, August 10, 2020 7:06 AM
Joined: 11/30/2011
Posts: 3400


I can understand the frustration but people just don’t get it as they are clueless to what happenings with dementia. 
Joe C.
Posted: Monday, August 10, 2020 7:48 AM
Joined: 10/13/2019
Posts: 368


Bill, IMHO many people use these words selectively. I wonder if some of the people who say “in sickness and in health” would apply the same standard if the child or sibling was in a marriage with a chronic alcoholic or drug addict, both medically classified as a disease. How about if the spouse has a gambling problem or were a serial cheater would they advise their love one to stay the course, my guess is they would be more likely to tell them to run like hell. 

We all said “The Words” but no one gave us a road map on how to navigate when life takes a detour. Nothing in The Words addresses what to do when your spouse becomes your child. 


Jeff86
Posted: Monday, August 10, 2020 8:49 AM
Joined: 10/24/2019
Posts: 286


Excellent points in this thread.

Many of us have supported our LOs through various health crises—cancer, heart ailments and so on.  But the ‘sickness’ of dementia is unlike in kind any of those illnesses and frailties.  So I’m with Ed—totally sympathetic to anyone who feels overwhelmed by AD and can’t complete the journey.  My plan is to run the marathon....but plans can and do get waylaid.

 Joe—you perfectly expressed for me how things have changed—“when your spouse becomes your child.”  That’s what I think about every night when I put my wife to bed, give her a kiss, and tuck her in.  We’re all still legally married—or people are still in committed relationships—but it really isn’t, anymore, a marriage.  On that basis, I can well understand anyone who feels his or her vows have lost their relevance.

Bill—you’re 100% correct.  No one can understand this who hasn’t lived it.  Wishing strength to all you devoted and dutiful caregivers.


elainechem
Posted: Monday, August 10, 2020 9:08 AM
Joined: 7/30/2013
Posts: 6040


Oh, believe me, I know! I never had anyone throw that kind of stupid, useless statement at me, but I had a few people who questioned why I was so upset when my husband was still alive. "He's still here, isn't he?" No, he wasn't. He stopped being the man that I married soon after the Alzheimer's took hold. No one can understand the pain and grief unless they've gone through it.
Battlebuddy
Posted: Monday, August 10, 2020 9:25 AM
Joined: 12/10/2019
Posts: 100


   When I first started the Alz journey 4 years ago, my goal was to keep husband at home to the very end- to Hospice .  I take my vows very seriously, and plan to honor them. I’ve often said as long as he doesn’t try and kill me and I can sleep at night I’m going to care for him. 

   One thing I’ve learned from this site is that all kinds of things can come up that can make you not able to continue care giving. Personal health issues , finances, too weak to turn and lift your PWD . I thought I would have more family support and I’m not getting it , so I am going to keep  that vow if at all possible but also going to give myself permission to turn the caregiving over to professional if I can’t do it without wrecking my health. My main reasoning is my kids are young , unmarried and in their twenties . Don’t want to leave them orphans. Want them to have one parent stand with them at their future weddings etc. Going to to care for myself too for their sake.

   So in a way I’ve now made a commitment to myself too  - to also take care of my health That’s a big change in me since Covid. Could feel myself going down both physically and mentally. Made changes. My husband isn’t the only one who matters. If he can’t take care of me in sickness and in health I have to do it. My health is important  too. Exercising more and eating better. Hopefully I will be able to do both. 


Nowhere
Posted: Monday, August 10, 2020 9:59 AM
Joined: 10/26/2019
Posts: 211


Battle buddy, yes, caring that works for both of us is the conclusion I keep returning to, too. It’s a need he recognized when he was well and witnessed the disease’s ravages in his own siblings, saying, “If I get AD put me in a home”.  Depending on what is happening in the home environment (or not) combined with the symptoms the diseases is driving choosing care to occur in a facility designed to specialIze in memory care can be preferred. I’m still his wife, for better or worse, wherever he resides. It is my hope that once he adjusts to the routine in a facility it will be less stressful to him than it is presently at home. It’s an unfair disease in an unfair world.
bull dog
Posted: Monday, August 10, 2020 11:23 AM
Joined: 4/1/2018
Posts: 98


Bill, I am glad that you put this into words. It is like when they start getting worse off, we have already lost them while they are still with us. I think this is why so many of us feel so much grief and loneliness, also when they get worse off, it like having a different person around with occasional glimpses of their old personality. Many of us as caregiver feel like we have become more like a maid and a stranger to them. It is like some of us do not not feel like we are living in a normal marriage any longer, and it may be why some of us feel like we are living in a state of confusion.  It is good to know that other people on here understand what we are going through.
Bholmes
Posted: Monday, August 10, 2020 11:27 AM
Joined: 2/24/2020
Posts: 101


I am kind on the same wave length as battlebuddy. I was going to take care at home my DW all the way through hospice. However, my own physical health issues have manifested in the last several years as she continues to decline. Also the financial burden for caregiver support and just the manifestation of the disease makes me readdress that aspect - It is now its as long as I can - both physically and mentally. 

This month is 6 years in the AZ journey and I have been working from home with my wife for over 4 + years and I have been away on just one 4 day business trip and 1/2 day fishing trip - I am so tired mentally and physically, that I finally decided I needed to do something in that area or I was not going to last. 

So I brought in some caregiver help recently and that has helped mentally more than anything. I also think I need some time away from my DW, some respite time this fall for several days and nights. I am hoping my DW sister can come visit and stay with her along with caregivers that week. 


Army_Vet60
Posted: Monday, August 10, 2020 12:03 PM
Joined: 6/21/2019
Posts: 798


The Inappropriate use by family/friends of bringing up "in sickness and health" runs both ways.

Several female friends of ours whom I respected quietly suggested I had fulfilled that vow and it was ok to put my wife in a facility and find companionship, while a male friend of mine told me it was time to find sex elsewhere to "relieve the stress"....

I recognize everyone has their own interpretation of the marriage vows, but frankly I resented these people 'advising' me on how I should or shouldn't honor my marriage vows to a woman who became terminally ill. It's not like any of them were taking time out from their lives to visit her.

 

 

 

 


Battlebuddy
Posted: Monday, August 10, 2020 12:04 PM
Joined: 12/10/2019
Posts: 100


Bholmes,

   Glad you are taking care of your mental health. 

  Yes, Making it to Hospice is the goal but now with an addendum that says unless I get to the point where it looks like I might not survive this. Then the best Memory Care I can find . And yes still his wife walking out the vow of till death do us part. 


Stuck in the middle
Posted: Monday, August 10, 2020 4:02 PM
Joined: 6/4/2017
Posts: 625


Army_Vet60 wrote:

Several female friends of ours whom I respected quietly suggested I had fulfilled that vow and it was ok to put my wife in a facility and find companionship . . .

 

 

 

Just tell them "No, but thanks for asking."
I have had that suggestion from female friends too, but it was years ago, when I was young enough to be interesting.  Had nothing to do with dementia.

Army_Vet60
Posted: Monday, August 10, 2020 4:06 PM
Joined: 6/21/2019
Posts: 798


Stuck in the middle wrote:
Army_Vet60 wrote:

Several female friends of ours whom I respected quietly suggested I had fulfilled that vow and it was ok to put my wife in a facility and find companionship . . .

 

 

 

 

Just tell them "No, but thanks for asking."
 
I have had that suggestion from female friends too, but it was years ago, when I was young enough to be interesting.  Had nothing to do with dementia.

My reply was a bit more blunt than 'thanks but no thanks'....


Stuck in the middle
Posted: Monday, August 10, 2020 4:23 PM
Joined: 6/4/2017
Posts: 625


Some PWDs can live at home until the end of life, and some cannot.  It depends.  
A friend recently placed her husband because he could no longer walk and she physically cannot care for him.  It has nothing to do with dishonoring her marriage vows, and everything to do with recognizing that some things can be done better by professionals.  
I don't do my wife's dental work, and I am not going to finish ruining my old back carrying her around.  I could carry her easily when I was 23 and she weighed 110 lb., but that was 50 years ago.  We live together happily now, but in a year or two, who knows?  If I start having strokes, like my mother and her father and his father, I will no longer be competent to care for anyone.  So, no promises that I will or will not keep her at home until death.  We'll see.

If you want to make God laugh, plan your life.


Stuck in the middle
Posted: Monday, August 10, 2020 4:32 PM
Joined: 6/4/2017
Posts: 625


Armyvet-60, "Thanks, but no thanks" would be a good answer to your male friend too 
1962ART
Posted: Tuesday, August 11, 2020 11:56 AM
Joined: 6/5/2020
Posts: 58


This is probably a strange suggestion, but this thread put me in mind of Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, published in 1847.  (I am a retired English teacher, so you get my background.)

In the book, Jane falls in love with Rochester, only to discover that Rochester is already married to Bertha, who has dementia and is kept up in special rooms of Rochester's large home.  Jane is not the caregiver here, but her dilemma seems real.  Rochester is the caregiver and he has decided to move on with his life and propose to Jane.  No spoiler alerts here.  It is a good read about our feelings versus our "responsibilities."

The reader follows Jane as she wrestles with the ethical and moral issues presented.  Ultimately, Jane receives an offer of marriage from a missionary.  (The missionary representing the "to death do us part" alternative to Jane's predicament. ). Who will Jane choose?

You may not agree with Bronte's conclusion, but it is a good read for those caught in this dilemma.  Hint;  a plot twist does help resolve the issues.  Certainly, it helps the reader feel better.

Anyway, just a thought I had.  I do commend all of you for considering a very delicate topic.

 


Crushed
Posted: Tuesday, August 11, 2020 12:28 PM
Joined: 2/2/2014
Posts: 5866


I posted this in another thread but it seems relevant here
 
 DW and I had a very very clear idea first stated at our wedding  repeated many times after and especially repeated when my mother  developed  dementia   that our marriage was a partnership not a mutual suicide pact. The marriage would endure (hopefully) as long as both of us could be partners.  If that ended we would continue to have lifelong support and care obligations.  But the partnership would be over.   We both knew of cases  where nosy, interfering, family or neighbors presumed to tell a person what "vows" meant or what was "proper behavior" when a partner became impaired.  We both hated that situation  with a passion    

DW  was a physician.  She dealt with many cases where the shell of a body was left but the spirit was gone.   I worked with Traumatic injury that had the same effect.  We both recoiled in horror  from some religious types who presumed to declare what "god's will" was.  Privately we  discussed sending some of them "right now" to speak directly with the  almighty.   
Our marriage was our marriage We set its rules and boundaries. We respected other's right to do the same.     

  
 

Crushed
Posted: Tuesday, August 11, 2020 12:33 PM
Joined: 2/2/2014
Posts: 5866


1962ART wrote:
  Hint;  a plot twist does help resolve the issues.  Certainly, it helps the reader feel better.

Anyway, just a thought I had.  I do commend all of you for considering a very delicate topic.

 

 

 Classic English conclusion unearned money and a convenient set of deaths solve all problems 

 



jfkoc
Posted: Tuesday, August 11, 2020 2:01 PM
Joined: 12/4/2011
Posts: 18845


Vow? I never thought of caring for my husband involved a vow.
1962ART
Posted: Tuesday, August 11, 2020 10:43 PM
Joined: 6/5/2020
Posts: 58


Crushed:  

Classic English conclusion unearned money and a convenient set of deaths solve all problems

I warned you it was written in Victorian England where Jane, existing as a sympathetic heroine, would never be possible if she married the already married man.  Of course, an affair or unblessed liaison would not be possible in a popular book of the time either, especially for a female author.  (Of course, she initially published under a pseudonym.)

"Classic English" seems so pejorative.  Surely you cannot be dismissing all English literature.  Unheard of!!  (I am pulling your leg, here, but we English teachers never allow sweeping generalities in the writing of our students.)

"Unearned money" or inherited wealth certainly is part of the English social system.  Perhaps it strikes American readers as somehow undemocratic.  Not sure how this informs our understanding of this piece of literature.

You're are right about the resolution and I warned you, for the era, this is the only possible ending for Jane.  For all of us, even caregivers, we struggle with moral and ethical issues.  Our resolutions will never be so neat and tidy, and I think we must accept that as we approach the story and our own reality.  Jane and Rochester do not escape unscathed, despite the convenient death.  Rochester is a broken, damaged man.  Happily ever after is not the last line of the book.

Loved discussing literature with someone!  Keep reading!  

 


Crushed
Posted: Wednesday, August 12, 2020 2:46 AM
Joined: 2/2/2014
Posts: 5866


1962ART wrote:

Crushed:  

Classic English conclusion unearned money and a convenient set of deaths solve all problems

I warned you it was written in Victorian England where Jane, existing as a sympathetic heroine, would never be possible if she married the already married man.  Of course, an affair or unblessed liaison would not be possible in a popular book of the time either, especially for a female author.  (Of course, she initially published under a pseudonym.)

"Classic English" seems so pejorative.  Surely you cannot be dismissing all English literature.  Unheard of!!  (I am pulling your leg, here, but we English teachers never allow sweeping generalities in the writing of our students.)

"Unearned money" or inherited wealth certainly is part of the English social system.  Perhaps it strikes American readers as somehow undemocratic.  Not sure how this informs our understanding of this piece of literature.

You're are right about the resolution and I warned you, for the era, this is the only possible ending for Jane.  For all of us, even caregivers, we struggle with moral and ethical issues.  Our resolutions will never be so neat and tidy, and I think we must accept that as we approach the story and our own reality.  Jane and Rochester do not escape unscathed, despite the convenient death.  Rochester is a broken, damaged man.  Happily ever after is not the last line of the book.

Loved discussing literature with someone!  Keep reading! 

I'M IRISH I assure you what when I say ENGLISH I meant the "Bloody Sassenachs"   "Perfidious Albion" "the Saxon foe"

 
...the Times rubbed its hands and told the white livered Saxons there would soon be as few Irish in Ireland as redskins in America. Even the Grand Turk sent us his piastres. But the Sassenach tried to starve the nation at home while the land was full of crops that the British hyenas bought and sold in Rio de Janeiro.
—James Joyce, Ulysses, 1922
 

 “Whatever happens, we have got The Maxim gun, and they have not.”

Belloc

 
 

    

 


Stuck in the middle
Posted: Wednesday, August 12, 2020 11:56 AM
Joined: 6/4/2017
Posts: 625


"Arrows cost money.  Send in the Irish."

Braveheart


Stuck in the middle
Posted: Wednesday, August 12, 2020 11:59 AM
Joined: 6/4/2017
Posts: 625


Crushed wrote 

 

 Classic English conclusion unearned money and a convenient set of deaths solve all problems 

 


Classic American conclusion, too.  "There ain't much trouble a man cain't fix with five hundred dollars and a thirty aught six."

vernh
Posted: Wednesday, August 12, 2020 1:10 PM
Joined: 7/22/2020
Posts: 45


The thing about oaths and vows is that you take them not knowing where they will lead you.  But that doesn't make them less binding.  Sometimes you have to go where you don't want to go, but you go, with your knees knocking and your teeth chattering.

And sometimes you get carried out on a stretcher and loaded into a helicopter.


Peter5
Posted: Wednesday, August 12, 2020 3:47 PM
Joined: 5/30/2013
Posts: 1196


vernh wrote:

The thing about oaths and vows is that you take them not knowing where they will lead you.  But that doesn't make them less binding.  Sometimes you have to go where you don't want to go, but you go, with your knees knocking and your teeth chattering.

And sometimes you get carried out on a stretcher and loaded into a helicopter.

But you don't need an uninformed third-party reminding you and passing judgement.