“Devotion Dilemma”

I came across this article in the Arizona Republic this week regarding an elderly wife caring for her ailing husband.  It is reminiscent of countless stories I have heard…and reflects the challenges spouses/partners face in these types of situations.  Is it worth the risk of one’s own health to care for another?

“They met on a blind date in 1949 and married two years later. They lived in the same Cape Cod-style house in Silver Spring, Md., for nearly 50 years. So when Leonard Crierie was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2005, there was no question that his wife, Betty, would take care of him at home for as long as she could.

Betty led him into the shower, helped him dress each morning and took him everywhere with her because, once he started wandering, as some dementia patients do, she dared not leave him alone. She learned how to change the colostomy bag he had to wear since he’d survived rectal cancer years earlier. She slept, fitfully, with a monitor by her bed so that she could respond if he needed her at night.”

“It was difficult, but I was able to take care of him,” says Betty, now 80. “Because it happens slowly, you don’t realize how bad it’s getting.”

She agreed to have Leonard attend an adult day program at nearby Holy Cross Hospital – he enjoyed socializing there – so she could get a few hours’ break several times a week; she found a Holy Cross caregivers support group very useful. But she refused the pleas from her three adult children to hire an aide to help at home.

“I always felt like I had it under control,” Betty explains, though her children thought the $18-an-hour cost also troubled a frugal woman who shops at dollar stores.

As the months passed, “we could see the stress level affecting her,” recalls her daughter Linda Fenlon. “The frustrating part was, we wanted her to have some independence, some quality of life. But she saw it as her duty in life to take care of him.”

For four years, Betty Crierie rarely asked for or accepted her family’s help, until one Wednesday last June. As she left her support-group meeting, she remembers, “I got this funny feeling in my chest.” It worsened on the 10-minute drive home. She called her daughter and said, “I’m calling 911. I think I’m having a heart attack.”

Read more: Aging spouses’ dutiful care of ill partners put their own health at risk.

Advertisements
This entry was posted in Caregiving Stories, Long Term Care Insurance and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s