Communion Of Dreams

Beats having a heart attack.
September 17, 2007, 8:57 pm
Filed under: Alzheimer's, Bipolar, Depression, Failure, Health, Hospice, Sleep, Writing stuff

This is pretty raw. I reserve the option to amend or delete it entirely later.  [9/18 7:15 AM: I’ve added a postscript – see below.]

I’m worn out. I’m emotionally and physically bankrupt. I’m spent, empty. Just a dry husk.

It was a *very* long day. Started with the migraine I mentioned in my previous post. Then care-giving was really rough. Worst it’s been, and that’s saying something. I don’t know whether my MIL had another little stroke, or is fighting an infection, or is approaching the end of her life, but damn – every fifteen to twenty minutes today I had to go tend to her, see what she needed. It was always some variation on the theme of her “needing to get ready to go home”, or wanting to “look outside to see if her ride is here,” or “needing to call the people she usually lives with in order to let them know that she was here”. I tried everything I know or could think of – distraction, answering questions, asking questions, reassuring, re-directing, lying outright – and nothing, nothing, would stick. Ten or fifteen minutes after I had gotten her calmed down or focused on something else, or whatever, she’d call again.

And this, of course, on a day when I was really trying to concentrate, punch through the mild migraine, get some conservation work done. Some rather delicate conservation work, at that. Work which had been promised to a client two weeks ago.

And, of course, my wife had a thing this evening that she had to go do (my suggestion that she do so – no fault to her). She got home after I had my MIL tucked in to bed and was working on the dishes.

And as I stood there at the sink, washing the dishes, thinking favorably on the option of having a heart attack, it sunk in that I was done. I mean, I’d been considering that a heart attack might be the best solution to my problems. Yeah, a heart attack. Hell, at 49, I’d probably survive it. It’d come as no surprise to anyone, given the kind of physiological and psychological stress I’m under. No one could blame me for no longer being a care-provider for someone with Alzheimer’s. Hey, it might even get someone to think about noticing my writing, since a tragic character (whether alive or dead) always gets more notice as an artist than does someone who has their life, and their shit, together.

So, that was that. I looked my own failure to continue right in the eye, and told my wife. I can’t continue to do this. I can’t deal with another day like this. Maybe later, but not now.

I thought earlier that I could do this indefinitely. But it has gotten so much harder in recent weeks. I don’t like to fail at something. I don’t like to set aside a job before it is done.

But it beats having a heart attack.


Like I said at the outset, that’s pretty raw.  And I’m going to leave it as is, though following 8+ hours of sleep I feel better and have a different perspective on things.

This is one of the functions that this blog serves for me: being a form of therapy, allowing me to express things in a way that allows me to vent and get some perspective.  I get it off my chest, so to speak.

And it serves another, related purpose: to help others understand just how difficult and demanding it is being a care-provider for someone with dementia,  to share with other care-providers my stories as a form of support.  And here, I am talking about those who choose to be care-providers for friends and loved ones at home.  Professionals who do this, God bless ’em, do not have the same perspective: they get to go home at the end of their shift (or even their double shift, in rare circumstances).  Doing this at home means you never get to leave.

I am by no means a ‘weak’ person.  Not physically, not intellectually, not emotionally.  And yet you can see what effects the constant, unending wearing has on me.  There’s a good reason why care-providers suffer huge stress-related illness, including, yes, heart attacks.

As I said, this morning I feel a lot better.  The migraine is just wisps and echoes, and I hope it remains that way.  I have this trip to meet with my new client and pick up the first lot of books, which means a couple of hours road time to allow the worries and cares to unspool behind me a bit.  Just getting out of the house for the bulk of the day will help.

I do not know where we go from here.  My wife and I discussed my exhaustion last night, when I told her that I was “done”.  But since we were already going  to change the care-giving package to allow me more time to concentrate on my conservation work in the coming months, it may be that we keep my MIL here at home and I just try and ride this out, knowing an end is in sight.  (As I told the social worker for Hospice when we first hooked up, “I can sleep on broken glass for six months, if I know that’s the end of it.”)

So, no fretting – I’m better this morning.  And while I cannot control what might actually happen to me vis-a-vis my health (beyond doing what I can to stay healthy), I’m no longer even contemplating a heart attack as a good alternative strategy.

Jim Downey

12 Comments so far
Leave a comment

I want to write something understanding, comforting and deep. What I am going to write is that you are not allowed to beat yourself up. As I said, I have a tiny inkling of what you have been going through with the end of life care. It is overwhelming, frightening, boring, frustration, draining, and guilt inducing. You have hit the end of your rope. Don’t beat or hang yourself with it. Much love, Spike

Comment by Spike

Hey Spike, thanks.

But, godless heathen that I am now, I cannot completely escape my Catholic upbringing and the guilt which goes with it. So, allow me to slap myself around with that rope a bit, eh? It, or perhaps more accurately my writing, allows me to beat some of those demons out of me. 😉

Jim D

Comment by Communion of Dreams


“Demons, begone!tm” Now in an industrial strength spray bottle. If you order now, we’ll thrown in a second bottle FREE!

Glad to hear you are feeling better. Sleep is amazing.

Comment by Spike

Sleep is definitely a healer. Glad to hear you’re doing better today, Jim. You know what they say about reaching the end of your rope: Tie a knot and hang on!

Seriously, it’s easy to agree to sleep on broken glass for six months as you said. But when the six months is sneakily extended to fifteen – with no end in sight? That gets much harder, and I think is the kind of regrouping that you are doing. It’s no wonder you are weary.

If only hospice, or some other agency, could give you nighttime babysitters for YMIL. Too bad the agencies where you live can’t see how simple a solution that could be. Or afternoon sitters who would answer the endless questions while you work.

Comment by ML

[…] 20th, 2007 The last couple of days with my MIL have been relatively calm. Given her behaviour on Monday, my wife and I have settled on a TIA as being the likely culprit, though of course that’s a […]

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I know that it will be of very little comfort but I do know from personal experience what you are going through. I can only assure you that it will be over. There is an end. It could come sooner or it could come later but it will come. Do what you can. You can do no more. Take it easy.

Comment by Michael (hypertension) Wooller

Michael – thanks for the words of encouragement. And Merry Christmas to you and yours.

Jim D.

Comment by Communion of Dreams

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