Thursday, October 31, 2013


I was in line the other day, waiting to check out, when I witnessed a conversation that made me sad. 

It was an older lady (guessing late 70's) describing her current experiences at home.  She suffered multiple compression fractures to her spine at her cottage while doing some outdoor work.  Had been active her whole life.  And since then, had not been able to enjoy doing much and spends the majority of time going to appointments to help manage the pain.

The sad part of the story was her description of how her husband was still expecting her to do everything as if she was not hurt.  "He's used to having everything done for him.".  And the act of cooking absolutely kills her now.

I can understand generational differences up to a point.  But where is the humanity?  How many of us are able to stand by and witness suffering and not be moved to do something to help?  And we are talking about his spouse!  I was appalled.  The pain, hurt and exhaustion was apparent on her face.   

Even though I knew I was only hearing one side of the story, the angry woman in me immediately thinks about what I would do in that instance if everything I heard was true.  Kicking the guy out to the curb comes to mind pretty quick.  And that separation would cost him too.  I'd be hiring some at home help until I got better.

It's frequently the tough times that show true colours and commitment.  It would be even sadder if she had felt all along that she was part of a wonderful marriage.  Could you be in a marriage that long and have no hint or idea that could happen?  Or do you hold onto the hope that they would step up if and when something serious happens?


  1. Such a tough situation. I totally get the angry feelings-I've experienced that as patients of mine describe their pain and their seemingly unsupportive families. You make a good point that it's only one side of the story. Sometimes I get the opportunity to meet family members who tell me they try to get the person in pain to slow down, but they feel compelled to keep trying to do what they always did. Also, some people assume they'll be better soon, so the situation is temporary, so they put up with it. Always hard to know where someone else is at. Generational differences are tricky too-I once treated a man in his 80s and he was quite put out that his wife (due to her own health/mental health concerns) stopped cooking his dinner. He was quite earnest when he said he had gotten used to making his own breakfast and lunch (though didn't love doing it), but for a wife not to cook dinner was absurd! I bit my tongue SO hard as I wished I could tell him to just suck it up and deal, but I realized this was such a monumental change to what he had been used to for probably 60 years of his life (and his mom probably always made dinner for his father, so really, 80+ years) that his comments were more about difficulty adjusting to change than difficulty actually making his own dinner. Funny the things we come to expect as normal, and how we respond when they don't go that way anymore.

    1. D's grandfather (deceased) was born in 1900. When his wife had to go to the hospital for a procedure, D lived with him for a week or so to keep him company. He still remembers how his Grandpa would exclaim just how hungry he was when his cellar (thanks to Grandma) resembled a small grocery store. He could handle taking the lid off a Tupperware but anything that came from a can or jar was considered cooking and he didn't know how to do that...Same with dishes that magically grew into a pile in the sink -- "It's easy if you know how..." was the response when questioned about them.

      I have this weird habit of assuming with increased age comes growth and wisdom, because that is what I expect from myself. Seems logical, which is why it totally clouded my judgement and expectations with D's parents. So I for sure admit to easily projecting my ideals onto various situations and getting myself all worked up because of it. As you say, change can be really hard. And sometimes we don't realized just how hard until faced with it.

      And working in health care, it is second nature to put ourselves aside and do what is in the best interest of others regardless of our personal beliefs. I forget sometimes that it doesn't translate as easily in "real life".