Not every day in a caregiver’s life is worthy of a pat on the back. Last week the visiting nurse called me with her weekiy update:
“Hi Cathy, all is well with your brother-in-law,but I’m calling today as his advocate.”
Uh-oh. What does that mean? Immediately, my hackles go up. I don’t actually know what hackles are, if I have them or when they go up and down. But I do know that some red flag is waving behind my eyeballs, and I have become defensive before she even says her next sentence. And here’s why. I am his advocate. Not you. First, I am a professional advocate. Second, I am the one who goes to bat for him almost on a daily basis. And third, if you are telling me you are advocating for him to me….that must mean you are about to tell me what I’m doing wrong.
“Okay,” I say calmly, “what’s up?”
“Since you’ve put him back on bed rest, he is frustrated and really angry. He doesn’t want to be in bed most of the day. He needs to be in his wheelchair and out and about with his friends. He needs to go to the dining room for every meal and have that independence.”
And here’s where I’m not so happy with myself….but this is only the first part of my confession.
“Let me tell you something (not a good way to start an open-minded conversation). He just returned home from 10 months in and out of the hospital with 6 of those months straight in a nursing home.In just four days after being home, he began to have bed sores again and problems with open wounds. I feel pretty certain that he does not want to go back to either of those places and so since I know that bed rest was the only solution, I instituted that. Within 10 days of you seeing him, those wounds have significantly healed and he is almost able to return to his normal routine.”
“Well,” she replied, “I’m sure that’s what he needs.”
“I am not trying to make his life harder. Quite the contrary. But I will be sure and let him know that you have advocated for him.”
“Okay, thanks and Happy Thanksgiving!” she said as she got off the phone at breakneck speed.
The Thanksgiving remark sort of slapped me back to reality as well. I was feeling less grateful for her help and more needy of explaining my part in this Passion Play.
And then I misbehaved.
I went over to my brother-in-law’s apartment to discuss his advocate. I waited until the next day, so I could explain to him that I’m not a monster, I’m not insensitive to the fact that lying in bed most of the day is boring, not fun and makes for a long day. I only have his best interests at heart, and I don’t want him to end up back in any place but his home, where he is as happy as he can be.
When I arrived, he was watching TV in his chair.
“Hey,” I said, “your nurse tells me your mad at me.”
“Yeah,” he said, “I don’t want to be in bed so much. ”
And this is where all my sensitivity training, my caregiver’s heart and I’m pretty sure my 26 years as a Mom comes in to soothe and explain how all my hard work for him is truly in his own best interests, that I love him and want him to be healthy and safe and happy and that sometimes that road is a little bumpy.
“Get over it, ” I said.
I thought he would just have to laugh…..and guess what…he actually did………