Last week my blog posting was about not being the perfect Florence Nightingale caregiver. But let’s face it: it takes two to tango! How can you be Miss Nightingale when your patient doesn’t abide by the Perfect Patient’s Code of Ethics!?
That wasn’t quite fair. I’ve never been in pain myself so I’ve no right to point fingers at anyone who isn’t ‘suffering beautifully’. No right at all.
But the best laid plans of mice and caregivers gang aft agley when your patient is anxious and fretful. When your patient flatly refuses to drink proper nourishing chicken consommé and instead loudly demands bangers and chips! It gets damned frustrating.
When my husband Rhys became ill, I approached his sick room with the same idealism I bring to every facet of life. I was able to procure a hospital bed, cane, shower stool, grab bars and commode. Everything was washed, scrubbed, laundered and prepared. The pantry shelves were bursting with nourishing soups, broths, consommés and stews. I loved the idea of being his nurse.
Rhys hated it. Hated it all. He refused to rest and sleep and insisted on sitting up in front of the telly instead. The pristinely clean hospital bed sheets were enjoyed by our muddy dog who thoroughly dried himself on Rhys bed after a bloody good splash in mud.
Worse yet, Rhys flatly refused to eat soft foods instead demanding heart meat-lovers fare.The soups languished on the pantry shelves along with all my love and preparations and yes, caregiver ego.
All my efforts were for nought. My fussing irritated him; my hovering annoyed him. Within a week, no, make that ‘within a day’ I wanted to rip off my angelic nurse halo and stamp it into the floor.
But it isn’t about us, is it, fellow caregivers. It isn’t about us.
It’s about Rhys and his needs. If bangers and chips is what he wants, bangers and chips is what he’ll get although I give myself leave to mutter under my breath as I’m making him a good old fashioned fry-up. It may be bad for his digestion, but it does wonders for his mood.
Is it frustrating to be a caregiver? It’s damnably frustrating. You can throw out all your previous expectations and glowing imaginations about the beauty of the sickroom.
You’ll be groused at, complained to, censured, lectured and sworn at. There is no ‘suffering beautifully with the patience of a Mother Teresa’. There’s just suffering and more suffering. Nothing beautiful about it.
Caregiving I’ve learnt is more about rolling with the punches, flying by the seat of your pants and keeping your lips buttoned shut. There’s no ego stroking, no attagirls/attaboys. Just lack of sleep, lack of patience, lack of ideas and lack of ego.
Luckily for us then it’s not about how we feel, but about how our patient feels. If they have all they need for health and all we can provide for comfort, we’re a success even if we don’t feel like we are.