My husband has Alzheimer’s Disease. He has lived in nursing homes for almost two years now. Over the New Year’s weekend, he was in the hospital. He had problems with his bladder and was having seizures. He spent much of the time in a deep sleep, but when he was awake, I found myself on constant guard to keep him from throwing off his clothes—lost that battle—and climbing out of the bed–almost. His hands shook so badly I had to feed him.
I had to speak for him to the doctors and nurses, struggling to interpret his garbled sounds and gestures and transmit basic information to which he no longer has access. I had to explain over and over why he could not answer their questions, why he needed extra help.
He has been wearing diapers—call them adult protective garments, Depends or whatever; they are diapers–At the hospital, a nurse installed a catheter, a tube that drains his urine into a plastic bag. He screamed and fought as if he were being killed. He did not understand what this was or why he needed it. He also screamed when the nurse poked a needle into his hand for the IV and another nurse placed sticky tabs on his hairy chest to hook up a heart monitor.
He did not understand any of it. I stood close by, trying to reassure him and trying to keep him from dismantling the medical gear. When I said he would feel better soon, he did not understand any more than a baby (or my dog). All he knew was that he was scared and hurting and he wanted to go home.
Standing by his bed for those difficult hours, exhausted and hungry, I sometimes wondered if this would be any easier if I had had some practice with children. At least I would know how to spoon applesauce into his mouth without getting it all over. I might be more comfortable checking his diaper to see if he has soiled it. I might be better at finding words of comfort and reassurance.
There are certain things mothers seem to know, and I don’t. I never expected to use mothering skills on my husband, but that’s the way it is.
Have you experienced times when you needed to dig out those maternal instincts? Please share.
5 thoughts on “Mothering My Husband”
I did care for my grandma a few years ago while she was in the hospital high in drugs and in pain. I was 20 back then, I have no little cousins or any small kids in my life, so I have no idea of maternal instinct, and I have never wanted to have children. I don't thin it has anything to do with whether you had children or not, it is only hard to care for someone you love so much when you see them suffer.
I am so sorry that you are going through this Sue.
I cannot imagine how difficult this all is, especially with no one around to really help.
Thinking of you…
It is hard. Thank you for your support.
I had my cat and my mother on catheters within a week of each other recently–I could explain it to my mother and she'd understand, but ten minutes later she would have forgotten and I'd have to explain it again.
I do sometimes wonder if I'm missing out on important personal development by not having children–in particular, I regret not experiencing the kind of love a mother has for her children, which I am told is like nothing else. And just the ability to relate to children–that comes naturally to some people but not to me. And the ability to remain calm under provocation, which parenthood obviously doesn't teach everybody, but most people seem to manage OK or none of them would live to four.
No, i don't think so. Sue, you are going through a terrible personal ordeal with your husband's illness. I am so sorry. I think you need all the support you can get just for this difficult time in your life. Do you get it? could you get to be part of a self-help group or something like that for people who are looking after someone with Alzheimer's disease? I want to be honest, I hope it's not cruel: I think you are torturing yourself additionally and unnecessarily by linking this experience so much to your childlessness. You couldn't have spooned apple sauce into a 3-year-old with more success. It would have been all over as well. What might be part of the sadness and bitterness is that as a mother of a toddler, you would probably have taken a picture of that applesauce-smeared child and had everybody say “oh that's so cute” about it. But that's what's sad and bitter about your husbands condition – i think you know better than me. PLEASE look after yourself. Try to get some support for what is the biggest challenge in your daily life right now. I can understand how your feelings connect the illness of your husband with your childlessness. You are feeling left alone by everybody. It's really horrible, i can't even image (i managed to feel lonely over christmas just for being childless while i had my family around me all the time). What i'm trying to say is, try to improve the situation you are now in and don't make it harder by going in circles around all these problems which seem connected to you.
I'm sorry if this is too personal for a blog comment…. do with it what you want, publish, delete, hate me. I didn't mean to hurt you. Your blog was the first english speaking blog on childlessness i discovered and it was immensely helpful to me. I wish i could give you support in a better way. But the blog is just there to share our view and opinion on things. I hope it is a little bit helpful.