Saturday, March 8, 2014
I don't know if it's growing older, or New England winters, or the meds I take, or watching Homeland and Downton Abbey in the same week -- but my memory isn't as crisp as it used to be.
When I was doing my psych internships, I had to write up a (wait a minute, I'll remember what it used to be called.... oh yeah..) progress notes on each session with my clients. Progress notes were verbatim captures of what was said during the entire hour, by the client and by me. These were then used in supervision to help me understand in deeper, more psychologically correct ways, what was going on for the client and for me. Back then, I could remember just about everything I said and he or she said.
This activity even helped sharpen my memory for decades. I could remember conversations, titles and the story lines of books and movies, shopping lists, and jokes.
Now, if I'm lucky, I can remember the punchline of a joke and work my way backwards to reconstruct the lead-in to the punchline. This does not make me particularly funny.
It gets even trickier when medications enter the picture. I take 6 different prescribed medications and a handful of vitamins and herbal supplements. Some have to be taken with food, some without. Some have to be taken in a particular sequence, not near others. And I have to space the meds out evenly throughout the day so I get good pain coverage.
I used to scratch my head several times a day trying to remember if I'd taken the 1:00pm dose, or forgot it, and should I double up on the 4:00pm dose.
My partner, Richard, who is a scientist and engineer, must solve problems. He has become part of my cerebral cortex. He comes with me to appointments with new doctors and takes notes on his iPad. He keeps track of how I'm doing (sometimes through his memory and sometimes through a spreadsheet) so we can provide doctors with an accurate accounting of my symptoms.
But the best solution he came up with was to program my cell phone so that I get a text message whenever it is time to take a medication. He also suggested that once I take the medication on time, I delete the text message so I know I've indeed taken the med.
Now, I remember things for him too. Particularly when it comes to the location of objects - like keys, cell phone, check book, passport, and runaway socks (this is what we call single socks that mysteriously disappear).
It's actually a great comfort to be able to lean on each other in this way. My partner, my memory.
Do you and your significant other remember things for each other? What sorts of things? Is this helpful, or annoying?
Sunday, March 2, 2014
From an article by Michaeleen Doucleff: A Strong Sex Life helps Couples Cope with the Trials of Aging on the NPR site
"Health problems can put a strain on a marriage at any age. But as we get older, chronic illnesses can make it even tougher to keep the spark alive.
Scientists at the University of Chicago have uncovered one way couples can offset the stresses of illness and aging: more physical intimacy.
Couples who continue to be sexually active over the years report higher levels of satisfaction in their marriages, the sociologists last month.
And it doesn't take much to give a relationship a boost. Going from essentially no sexual activity during a year to sex once each month or so was associated with an increase in marital quality, according to those surveyed.
"To protect marital quality in later life, it may be important for older adults to find ways to stay engaged in sexual activity, even as health problems render familiar forms of sexual interaction difficult or impossible," sociologists Adena Galinsky and write in The Journals of Gerontology B.
And intercourse wasn't necessary to maintain intimacy. "As individuals age, the means of sexual expression may change," the researchers write. "Our measure of sexual behaviors was designed to be inclusive; it asks explicitly about any activities with one's partner that were sexually arousing, noting that they did not need to result in orgasm."
To figure out the relationship between sex, marital happiness and health, Galinsky and Waite analyzed data from nearly 500 couples between ages 58 and 85. Most of the couples had been married for at least 40 years...."
What have you experienced in your relationship? To the extent that you are able to be intimate with your partner -- does it make quality of life and health better?
Saturday, March 1, 2014
I'm writing to share with you a review by Paul Levy of our book: IN SICKNESS AS IN HEALTH: Helping Couples Cope with the Complexities of Illness
Paul is a well known health care blogger and a stalwart advocate for patient-centered care. He was CEO of one of the major Harvard teaching hospitals in Boston, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.
To read Paul's review of IN SICKNESS AS IN HEALTH, go to his excellent blog, Not Running a Hospital
Here is Paul's concluding paragraph:
So, how ironic and telling that a book designed to help couples is also an advisory to doctors who serve for and care for those couples! My advice is that this book should be read by physicians as well as those of us who might need it for our families.
I hope you enjoy his post. If you like it, please feel free to forward, tweet, or otherwise share it with your own networks. We are on a mission to get the word out that if you're part of a couple, the illness may reside on one person's body, but its two lives that are dislocated and two will that can be enlisted to deal with the upheavals illness introduces into the relationship.
Wednesday, February 26, 2014
I just discovered yesterday that some comments to this blog were going into my spam folder. Because most were going right into my email, I never thought to check the spam folder.
MEA CULPA. My deepest apologies to readers who probably thought their comments were being ignored.
I can only hope that you're still reading my blog and will comment again.
I promise to check the spam folder every day and to do what I can to rejigger the settings so no one's invaluable comments go unseen again.
Monday, February 24, 2014
I was invited by Leslie Rott who works with the Partnership for Palliative Care, and has her own terrific blog - gettingclosertomyself.
"Why do you blog about your illness?"
Here is my response:
My blog, www.insicknessinhealth.blogspot.com, focuses on the impact of illness on the couple relationship. My audience consists of people with illness and their significant other and other caregivers, along with the health care practitioners who work with them.
I blog about this topic because I have a chronic pain condition and not only does this deeply affect my husband and our relationship, but his hope and resilience have been as healing for me as any medication or treatment. Yet this topic is rarely seen as part of the healing equation and little is written about it. Blogging about couples and illness also helped me write my book: IN SICKNESS AS IN HEALTH: Helping Couples Cope with the Complexities of Illness (Roundtree Press, 2013), www.insicknessasinhealth.com
If you're part off a couple illness is never a solo flight. It may reside in one partner's body, but two lives are dislocated, and two wills can be engaged in the healing process. Partners and practitioners can work together to help the couple manage the illness and weather the upheavals it introduces into the relationship.
Health care is overloaded and under-resourced; and medicine focuses primarily on the biological and very little on the social. Yet the patient lives in and is most influenced by her social networks, at the center of which lives her significant other. If involved, the significant other can reinforce and augment the treatment; and if disengaged or under-informed, he can inadvertently or purposely derail it.
The impact of illness on the couple relationship is profound, and how the couple weathers that impact has a direct effect on the course of the illness. In addition, if practitioners considered the social, particularly the couple, as the treatment unit, not only would the couple benefit, but the practitioner would gain a powerful ally.
Simply put, I blog to get the word out on the topic of couples and illness.
Monday, February 3, 2014
My birthday is tomorrow, and I have been having ripples of pain for weeks. I wanted to be above the pain line for my birthday. I wanted to just have a great day. Go to the museum, a movie, out to dinner. Whatever - but without pain.
Is it possible to have a great birthday when your symptoms tag along with you?
I guess if I stop looking outward at activities and start looking inward at those things that have immeasurable value, regardless of symptoms, I stand a better chance of appreciating the day. And as long as Richard is by my side, I know I am loved.
But damn it! I just plain feel like whining. At least for a little while.
On the other hand, we do have a few more episodes of Breaking Bad to watch. The exhibit at the local museum is about the changing meaning of "pink" in art and fashion. Sounds like a yawner.
So Breaking Bad and take-out Chinese food. And Richard.
Starting to sound like an OK day.
Monday, January 20, 2014
Imagine a job description that included 24x7 hours, no pay, doing all major house chores, child care, benefits only intangibles (like love), exhaustion guaranteed.
That's only a part of the caregiver's job. Some have a lighter load, and for some it's heavier - especially if your partner is having a relapse or is declining.
Caregivers do receive. Hopefully they get love and appreciation and the satisfaction of doing something that's life-giving for the person they love. And sometimes they just get indifference and exhaustion.
When I was in the second month of a recent relapse of my pain condition, Richard, my partner, got an invitation to visit an old college friend who was in the States visiting his family homestead in Texas. For me, it was a bad time to be without Richard. When I'm low, I depend on him to hold the hope. But we both knew that this trip was well-timed. He needed a break and some freedom. So I gave him my blessing to go and have fun. He promised to check in with me often.
One day, he and his friend went to Dealey Plaza, where President Kennedy was assassinated and where there is know a national historic landmark. Richard called me and offered to use Skype video to take me along on their tour. I didn't join them, but it was good to know that Richard carried me with him, wherever he was. And he returned home with more strength for my long recovery haul.
Caregivers, how do you replenish yourselves? Do you take time to do the things you love? Do you feel guilty about doing what your partner can no longer do? Does your partner support your autonomy?