Sunday, March 16, 2008

Spouse Caregiver: Is it 'The Vow' or 'To Care'?


Washington Post writer Liza Mundy’s 7,500 word feature (novella?)

                       “The Vow

(In 35 words or less <grin>) The story of Dave Kendall a spouse caregiver of 7 years and Diane diagnosed with Huntington’s disease is blended with caregiving information from the Well Spouse Association, a medical ethicist, and even a disability attorney.


I empathize and thank the Kendall’s for sharing their story.


Some points I want to asterisk … Why? Because “everyone will one day know or love someone who can no longer take care of themselves,”  Maggie Strong. And it is important to remember there are no cookie cutter answers for caregiving, each story will be different.


Marital Vows ***


“When Dave Kendall promised to love Diana 'in sickness and in health,' he meant it …”


*   When Patti and I were married 22 years ago, promises of ‘in sickness and in health’ WERE NOT part of our wedding vows.


*   Yet here I am a spouse caregiver 18 years after Multiple Sclerosis left Patti dependent.


I sometimes wonder if “marital vows” could become a rhetorical ‘straw man’. Shouldn’t the focus be CARE not promises?


Every family situation is unique ***


*   The Kendall’s were married for 20 healthy years and raised their child to adulthood before Huntington's disease changed their world.


*   Patti and I were married only 4 years before Multiple Sclerosis left Patti dependent and me to juggle both life as a spouse caregiver and single parent to our then 18 month daughter. We have known a caregiving relationship almost 5X longer than as a well couple.


*   What about parent caregivers of special needs children? Here is caring that will not only change families every day for the rest of their lives but transcend life times.


I have found that spouse caregiving is about a stoic indifference to your own existence. Not about what ‘you’ had in mind for ‘your’ life.


Health is not guaranteed. Yet how many families live on the fragile assumption of health?


Suffer us not to mock ourselves with falsehood

Teach us to care and not to care

Ash Wednesday, T. S. Eliot


Caregivingly Yours, J Patrick Leer



non-caregiver musings:


  1. ..."stoic indifference to our own existance" true and doubled in some instances.

  2. Yes, you have to care about someone... ALOT... to care for those who are dependent up others for even the basic needs of life. BUT, I think it is even more than that. I think it is doing the right thing, you know, character. Doing the right thing when people would understand if you didn't.


  3.  Sometimes you just do it without any thought to the whys, your loved one is ill, you care for them.  But not everyone does it.  Is it the pheromones the attracts you in the first place?  Great insightful entry.


  4. wow, that was an interesting article, I read all 7500 words of it (skimming through parts); I have to admire their willingness to share their story for all to read

    honestly, I think we said in sickness and health when we got married, I can't remember back that far, I'm sure we did since we seemed to have the "standard" vow ceremony; but who really knows what life will throw at them when they are getting married? I've gotten a few surprises down the road, I don't know how I would handle being a caregiver at such a young age or at all, I commend all who do continue to care give day after day after day in the most difficult of situations



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