Empathy and Caregiving


Empathy and Caregiving

gerbera-611568_640My SIL is a strong intelligent woman who has suffered things I never will, has gone down paths I couldn't imagine. She has experienced pain both physically and emotionally I hope to never come close to experiencing.

As hard as it gets for me as her caregiver I never lose sight of what this must be like for her. Around 14 years ago she left an abusive marriage, the man is quite literally a monster. I knew him a bit before they moved cross country and I never liked the man, though her family thought him charming, and my husband looked up to him as a big brother. I didn't like him one bit. We had no idea of the abuse she suffered, she lived in fear. He convinced her he would go after those she loved, and she believed him. She had three big brothers and my husband her little brother and these are not fearful men. Had they known, she would have been protected. The man is a coward, no one feared him but her. He had her so psychologically damaged I don't know how she summed up the courage to drive cross country alone, but she did. To come home.

She tried for many years to have a child, spent thousands upon thousands on fertility treatments trying for a baby. Yes, of course in retrospect Thank God she didn't with that man but to think of that heartbreak, this too I can't imagine.

She was a hard-worker. She usually held down two jobs. One job was always a great job like assistant.manager at a large medical center records department and like a side job at Kinkos. She managed several small businesses. She always worked way too hard. She saved money like crazy, didn't spoil herself ever. I know her husband wiped out 100k in savings once. I still never 'got' what she was saving for. By the time she got to us she was flat broke.

When her mother began to decline because of age-related issues, she moved in. It was all bad. She'd left her mom's home at 16 to move with her older brother and his wife because they didn't get along. She wasn't forced to go, she elected to. She graduated high school early so she could leave. There was no abuse, they just didn't get along. In those last years walking into that house you could cut the tension with a knife.

You could tell SIL was sick but we had no idea. We offered to bring MIL home with us many times but SIL refused. It was an emotionally very unhealthy environment but there was no abuse, they just didn't like each other at all.

I don't know at what point SIL began to drink. I don't know how long she drank. I only found out during the last hospitalization that there was a real prolonged issue. Only after a great ICU nurse dug into her past medical history where there was an entry from 2003 of pancreatitis due to  chronic alcoholism. This after taking care of her for almost  four years. This after sitting with her 1,000 times while she gave detailed medical history. Liver doc gave her the diagnosis of NASH disease non-alcohol related cirrhosis. I knew she drank too much after the divorce but I had no idea of the extent. Same hospital since 2003. How did the liver doctor miss this when ICU nurse found it readily available?

SIL has severe psoriatic artritis, she had breast cancer, she has fibro, CHF, psoriasis, severe dental issues, had a hysterectomy, tonsillectomy, bi-lateral mastectomy. None of which are caused by alcohol abuse, all of which she survived. but what's killing her is the cirrhosis of the liver.

At first I was so angry at the lies. Her friend said something along the lines about her alcohol abuse and she had me print all kinds of stuff on NASH and give it to her. I said harsh words to the friend when all along it was the truth. She asked me not long ago (before I knew) if she'd done this to herself. I told her as far as I knew no, she would have had to drink a 5th a day for 10 years. Well, 2003 was 12 years ago and I know she was drinking afterwards.

But as I look back at the life she lived, the horrible hand she was dealt, how can I be angry? It took her all these years to find safety with us. She finally unpacked her 'go' bag she always had packed in case she had to leave in a hurry. Change of clothes, toiletries, money. She never felt safe until she came to live with her dumb little brother, his crazy wife and their three rowdy kids and the evil mother-in-law. Now she's forced to rely on us for her every need. At times when she's 'out of it' she will say things like we will kick her out, or my mom will kick her out. Stuff we've never said or would ever do but it's what she expects. That we will throw it in her face. That's never been the case from us, but oh-so-many times that's what she got from people she thought she could trust.

My husband's and SIL's family is a mess. Nobody calls, nobody visits. They are surprised we're doing this. So weird, my family isn't surprised. To us, my extended family, this is what family does. To us, this is normal. For all of us this is how family is. There wasn't even a question of taking her in. It was a given, when it got hard, oh well, that's how things go sometimes. Nobody asks why, they just say, oh wow, that sucks. I didn't even know it was a big deal til doctors and nurses would comment on it.

Upon reflection, I guess I know why I do the things for her I do. Of course my life is far from perfect I, too, could fill a book. But I've always had unconditional love. Parents and grandparents, uncles and aunts, cousins who are like siblings, and my own dumb little brother. Maybe I can share a little of that.

Right now SIL is better, we don't know why, but she's come out of the fog for a bit. No change in medications but she's able to have a conversation! No idea how long this will last, but we will surround her with love and roll with this too. Everything with her is shocking so we've come to expect the unexpected.

I have permission to share her story, right now she's lucid so she does thank us and realize what's going on. She was having a hard time believing how bad she gets but the social worker explained this is the nature of cirrhosis. I wanted an outsider to confirm for her because I don't want to lose her trust in any way. It's so scary to wake up and find out you've been doing and acting in ways you have no memory of!

Thanks for the read and allowing me to vent!

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<a href='http://www.caregiving.com/members/denise/' rel=\"nofollow\">@denise</a> thanks for allowing me a place to get this out. As I write I figure out so much of what I'm feeling and am able to let it go


You remind us, HSG, that we save so much energy when we let go off bitterness and resentment. You could be bitter about your SIL's choices but the bitterness would hurt you most of all. Forgiving and understanding her means you have more energy to give yourself. Amazing how that all works out. \r\n\r\nThank you so much for including us in your life. :)


<a href='http://www.caregiving.com/members/jnuss1505/' rel=\"nofollow\">@jnuss1505</a> wow! What a complement! I try and have a good attitude.....but let me tell you, there are always THOSE days :) I'm very fortunate that I've got my daughters and my moms help too. We're in it together ! Along with hubby and son :)


Thank you for what you do.............WOW..............I read this for a reason. My eyes are welling with tears, because, honestly, I don't see many people who have your attitude, your commitment, your moral values. You have restored my faith in humanity. Thank you


Your story is so powerful, on so many levels. You are teaching all of us about failures and successes. Thank you for continuing to share your private journey.

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