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Planning Retirement Online


Relationships   

                        July 2010

Maggi Stamp, LaterLife's Relationship Counsellor

Every month Maggi Stamp, a qualified and experienced relationship counsellor in private practice after 20yrs with Relate, writes about some of the emotional challenges we meet as we pass our half-way markers.

For reasons of confidentiality Maggi never writes about a particular person's problems unless you have sent one in to be answered, but all her examples are based on problems raised by clients, family and friends over the years.  

You can write to Maggi at maggi@laterlife.com for her to respond in the column.


IT COULD BE YOU...

My husband is always angry and unpleasant with me

Dear Maggi,

I’m going to be very short and precise. My problems is that for months I’ve been caring for my husband following his stroke. After a brief spell in hospital he was transferred to a nursing home and then home. I’m a teacher, I’m his carer and also run the home, see to household bills, etc.

My husband is always angry and unpleasant with me yet with the rest of the family he laughs and chats when they visit. With me it is constantly “Do this” and “Do that”. I feel like a slave. It is all so hard given that I work too.

I feel lonely, upset and that I can’t trust anyone.
In my teaching job I feel good, taking classes is like therapy but at home things are horrible. At this point I don’t know what to do.

I’m feeling like giving up and that I can’t continue like this. Help.

 

Maggi Replies:

You must be worn out. The sad truth is that sometimes a stroke can change a person’s personality even if they regain their physical abilities and your husband seems to be one of these. If they were an unflappable type they might become anxious, if calm become angry, if an edgy sort they could even become easier going.

It is most important that you find help and support. Gone are the days when one soldiered on saying nothing, come what may. Your own health is now at risk and then your husband will be back in care and you will be alone and unwell. At the moment you must feel pretty alone anyway. You need to talk to your GP about your difficulties. Tell him or her how your husband is treating you, how you feel and ask directly what they can do to help. This last item is as important as the others as it will prompt the doctor to sort out day care, night or respite care, or refer you to Social Services who will be able to organize some support for you. There is likely to be a daycare centre for stroke sufferers near you and Social Services will be able to connect you with this and with any support groups for carers that you can reach.

As you have access to the internet, look at finding support online too. The Stroke Association has lots of information and a good discussion forum, Talkstroke. It has plenty of other carers writing in with similar problems and very helpful advice and emotional support for others who are ‘at the end of their tether’.

One of the saddest things following the sort of stroke that changes someone’s personality is that their partner is thrown into the role of carer without much opportunity to mourn the loss of the life companion they had before. He or she might appear more or less the same as before but the things a partner has loved and enjoyed about their company might no longer be there. The emotional confusion this can create is an immense strain on the relationship and upon the well-being of the carer. Whilst wanting to care for the person you have loved, possibly for decades - as is always the deal in a long term marriage or relationship - that person has changed and is making it very hard to stay feeling compassionate towards them. At the same time guilt over not caring in the way you originally promised with the intended devotion creates great stress for the carer.

Don’t feel guilty, you are doing as much as you can – and possibly more than is healthy for you. Look for help and ask for it. If you have friendly neighbours, chat with them as light relief and friendship, or ask them to help you occasionally with household/gardening tasks that are hard for you. Promise yourself days away from the caring role, even if you spend much of the time worrying and thinking about your husband to begin with. It is possible he will give you a hard time on your return. Tell him firmly that you are his main carer and as such are entitled to time off and to polite treatment. Walk away to give him a chance to calm down, do not enter into any sort of discussion. But try not to withhold basic care needs that he is also entitled to. If things become too fraught talk to Social Services, explain and let them take more of the strain. If you are not supported then the system has to take on full responsibility that at present you are protecting them from. They need to support you.

You need to support yourself.

The Stroke Association: www.stroke.org.uk

 


You can write to Maggi at maggi@laterlife.com for her to respond in the column.


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