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What to do when your equal-division-of-labor spouse is too hurt to help?
August 31, 2013 8:39 PM   Subscribe

My husband got into a pretty bad accident this week and will need surgery in a few days. He is at home and his pain is managed, but he can't move around much. I'm now in charge of doing everything in our house as well as taking care of him, and I'm having trouble coping.

I am married to one of the best people. He has tried to make this past week as easy as possible for me, but he usually does 50% of the chores and childcare, maybe even a little more. He will not be able to help me for another two months and will not be back to 100% until next summer, so I feel a little overwhelmed to suddenly have to take care of both of our chores and childcare duties. Plus, since he is not very mobile I have to take care of him, too.

We both have pretty demanding careers, so it felt like we were just over the line of making it when we were both healthy, but I felt a little squished living a life that was 98% work and domestic tasks. Now I feel pancaked. We're both working most of the holiday weekend to make up for time out of work this week as well as next week, so it's possible that many of my low feelings are stemming from that right now.

I really want to do this without complaining or dumping any negative feelings on my already injured husband. I've watched my role-models, my in-laws and parents, take care of their family members without breaking down or snapping. I can't help but feel disappointed at myself for being irritated at having to drop what I'm doing just a few times a day. I don't even have to administer shots! I know my husband knows me well enough to curb his requests to only the most essential ones because I'm bad at being a helper, so the last thing I want to do is pout at him. But I don't even have the energy to smile at him even though he asks so little. He deserves more than that, but I feel like I'm back in that awful place when my child was breastfeeding constantly and I was so drained that I couldn't even look at my husband.

I've been setting boundaries about the chores I will take over from him. I will buy him more underpants rather than wash clothes more than once a week. I will not be as fastidious about the recycling. I can't make the pets a special dish everyday and they probably won't notice if I do, anyway. But the household list is still so long and I want to hide in my room just thinking about it.

Ordinarily, this is the kind of trouble I would just buy my way out of, but the medical bills on top of recent necessary home repairs have sent us into frugal mode for the foreseeable future. I'm questioning every purchase at this point.

Lots of people have offered to help, and some are even with us now. I can't sort out the serious offers from the ones that are just words. I've been getting an enormous amount of help with the kid, and it's been enough to keep my head above the water for now, but I know our family members need to go back home and our friends have lives. I'm not sure how to patch things together between now and that unknown day when my husband is well enough to have his chore list back.

On the other hand, I just feel so invaded by the people who are currently helping. They are always in the way unloading the dishwasher when I need to get to the cupboard or I just want them to go home so I can go to the bathroom or take a shower in peace. Which is stupid, of course, because I need them so much, but I feel like I'm pasting on a happy face so that they feel appreciated. And I totally appreciate them, but also want my house back at the same time; I am a complex woman right now.

Really, I am trying to take care of myself, but it is the guiltiest, least satisfying downtime, ever.

Plus, this shouldn't be that bad, right? I am fortunate that my husband is mostly in one piece, that I have just one fairly well-behaved kid, a house that should not be that hard to manage, and people who will help me. I feel so silly asking for help when he's not even hurt that bad. Why is all of this so hard? I feel like I've seen so many friends and family do this without breaking a sweat. I know my impulse to wait until I am overloaded 110% is the wrong one, but anything less feels like being a weak-willed complainer and taking advantage of others.

(If you see this, dear, please know that I love you, and will continue taking care of you no matter what, and will totally get you a glass of water right now.)

Here is where I need your help:
• Have you done this? How did you do this?
• How do I sort through offers to help (some of them for very specific things), and make sure some of them happen? How do you organize help when you don't even have time for school shopping and school starts Tuesday? Some of the help I need can't be scheduled, like when my husband falls.
• How can I make sure that my husband feels comfortable asking for whatever he needs? I'm trying to hide my crabby, stupid feelings inside, but he knows me better than anyone. He can always see right through me.
• How do you balance being an introvert with accepting help?
• How can I tell being lazy from just feeling tired and overwhelmed?
• My kid is young and taking this pretty well, but fighting with us about some new things, which is taxing our low reserves. Is there more I can do for her other than tell her what is going on? She already knows not to jump on daddy.
• I was given an enormous, important work assignment the day before the accident. I've farmed out as much as I can, but much of it matches a special skill set (like speaking medical Uzbek) that solely belongs to me at my company. I really want to do this project and do it well, but that might not be possible. I'm not sure how to deal with that, career wise. A lot of my stress is having this hang over my head at the same time as my spouse's surgery. (I think I know the answer to this one: "Schedule a meeting with the boss asap!")
posted by oysters oysters oysters eat eat eat to Human Relations (28 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
 
I cared for my wife while she was in hospice care due to cancer. We had a 15-month-old daughter at the time. It was monumentally, unfathomably difficult. I used up all my PTO at work and then some. I took every offer from everyone who could come help watch my daughter, or tend to my wife, or make dinner or straighten the house. Having more people around is better than fewer. If someone ends up being counter-productive you can ask them to leave.

I was off work for two months. There are more important things than the big project at work.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 8:49 PM on August 31, 2013 [4 favorites]


I haven't handled this myself, but I have been a 'helper' in this type of situation. I think one thing that has helped friends of mine in a similar situation is to designate one close friend or family member as the go-to delegater. For example, when a friend had a baby with medical issues, her sister set up an online meal plan and had everyone at the church to sign up for slots to deliver meals. There was a specific request to leave the food on the porch and not knock/ring the doorbell so the baby would not be disturbed - if the baby was awake and Mom was feeling up for visitors, she would leave the door open (with the screen door closed) so folks could know visitors were welcome (this was summer in a warm area - maybe you could do something similar with a little sign on the door).

If you do have someone who can help be your organizer person, you could perhaps make a list of things that need to happen and that you would like help with, perhaps a list like: child care on Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday from 4:30-7pm; prepared dinners on weeknights; grocery shopping from a set list with cash that you provide; someone to come in and tidy up the living room and sit with hubby while he eats lunch. Etc. etc. Then, your organizer can take this list and farm out requests to people who are willing to help, without you having to deal with it.

Don't be afraid to ask for help without 'providing' socializing in return. If you need people to drop off dinner or come and entertain your husband/clean/etc. while you are at work, that is ok!
posted by rainbowbrite at 8:59 PM on August 31, 2013 [12 favorites]


Stop. Breathe. You can do this. That is the important thing to remember. This is do-able. By you.

As for specific advice: Gods yes talk to your boss. Even if you don't want to cancel the big medical-Uzbek project, see what else your boss can get off your plate for the next few weeks. Your boss is likely a functioning human being who wants to help you get through this.

Don't be afraid to tell people, "Thanks for the offer -- I don't need anything right now. No, really, thank you, go away." If they're really your friends, they will understand that you're overwhelmed and won't hold it against you if you call tomorrow and say, "Okay, now I need your help."
posted by Etrigan at 8:59 PM on August 31, 2013 [2 favorites]


First of all - do the people at your work know about this, esp your manager? Can you speak about this to your management and see if there is an opportunity to offload/delay some of the projects? This is a huge disruption in your husband's life, in your life, and in the mindspace in which you can complete your work. They need to know this - for context, as well as for planning.

And on the home front - is there any way that you can hire help for the next two or three months? I know that you said Ordinarily, this is the kind of trouble I would just buy my way out of, but the medical bills on top of recent necessary home repairs have sent us into frugal mode for the foreseeable future. I'm questioning every purchase at this point. but the accident happened recently and you - and he - are in shock. Have that person help you with the daily chores around the house, and then you can focus on your husband, you, and your work too. And leave all the other details to that person.

Alternatively, is there any way that your medical insurance can pay for a nurse/medical practitioner to come in for a 3x a week visit to take care of your husband's immediate medical needs?

Basically I am wondering whether there is a way that someone can come in and perform paid help for you. Yes, it's a budget impact in the short run but it would be good to have the help in the short term until your husband's healing is well underway and you have had time to ease into the new order of things.

Please take care of yourself.
posted by seawallrunner at 9:01 PM on August 31, 2013 [3 favorites]


1) Absolutely call in the troops. Make a list of tasks that need doing. Could the parent of one of your daughter's friends get school supplies? When people ask how they could help, this is the list you refer to. You can even pre-assign people to tasks -- when we had a baby recently, we made two lists: one of people who could bring us food and meet the baby, and another of people who we would let/encourage to do our laundry, take out the trash, etc., in addition to the above.
2) You can set up a meal train (I like Take Them A Meal, because it doesn't require folks to generate a login). Or you can give a list of names to a visiting family member and have them set it up before they leave. If the people bringing food are also people who want to help, ask them to empty the dishwasher or take out the trash while they're dropping off dinner.
3) If you can, hire it out. Have someone clean your house and take care of the yard. You could even have the laundry sent out, hire someone to walk a dog, whatever.
4) I don't know how badly he's injured, but are there small things your husband can do? I imagine he's feeling completely useless. Folding laundry (as long as it's not sheets or something large) can be done reclining, for example.
5) See if there are other parents who might be willing to help with childcare -- picking your daughter up from school/activities, that sort of thing. Hire a regular babysitter so you have some breathing room, or set up a recurring weekend daytime playdate with her best friend.

This sort of thing is exhausting, and, yeah, having all that help is hard on an introvert caregiver. When our family recently went through a medical event, the help I needed most (on top of childcare, being fed, and having my house cleaned) was time ALONE to process, assimilate the events of each day, and recover my energy. Taking time for yourself is the best thing you can possibly do to continue being a loving caregiver to your family, particularly when there's a lengthy recovery involved. On preview, as Etrigan said, yes. Absolutely tell people, "Right now, the most helpful thing is some space. I could use help Wednesday, though."

Your friends and family want to help take care of your family. This is what makes functioning communities. It's hard to accept help, but you do it knowing that you'll help them when you can.
posted by linettasky at 9:08 PM on August 31, 2013


Can your husband be the one who organizes things? If he's not hopped up on the really good drugs anymore, would he be able to delegate tasks, make phonecalls, and help you figure out what really needs doing and what can wait? None of this needs him to move to do it, but he might also just be really bad at relinquishing control. If he's not, and can handle it, a competent conductor of chaos is sometimes more help than anything you could pay for. If he's got broken fingers (for typing) there's even voice activation and transcribing that's functional, now, for texting people offering to help, writing lists out, and so-on.

This question about what chores can be blown off to decrease overall stress might help you get a handle on what really has to get done and what can wait until everyone's healthy and happy.
posted by Mizu at 9:25 PM on August 31, 2013 [2 favorites]


• How do I sort through offers to help (some of them for very specific things), and make sure some of them happen? How do you organize help when you don't even have time for school shopping and school starts Tuesday? Some of the help I need can't be scheduled, like when my husband falls.

-Just a note- when your husband falls and you/he cannot get him back up on your own, in my hometown, you can call 911 and ask for some paramedics to come and assist you. Even if the person isn't seriously injured. I've done it for my grandmother. In my town it doesn't cost money but I guess in some places it might.

I also think, for stuff like that that can't be scheduled, it's okay to reach out to people and be like, "Look, I need someone who is big and strong who lives less than five minutes away from me and can be called in this situation, who do you know?" Put the feelers out, man. I bet somebody's got a big-hearted and burly brother-in-law.

And like, in a larger sense- this is when you ask for favors. This is what favors are FOR. A big, unforseeable accident with time-limited consequences. You aren't asking for help indefinitely and you don't need help because of something you did wrong. Don't feel guilty, man; go hard.

-Some of the people who offered to help but haven't followed through might be like me- I am an anxious helper. I want to help, but I also don't want to intrude, so I wait to be tapped. I like it when a person says to me, "I need you to go to the grocery store for me," or, "I need you to watch Child away from my house from 3-7 tomorrow and I need her to come home in her pajamas and having taken a bath." It wouldn't upset or anger me; I would be relieved. I think rainbowbrite's suggestion of a go-to person is great if you are too overwhelmed to call people and say, "Remember when you said you could make us a meal? I need you to do it tomorrow and Monday. Thanks." I wouldn't be offended at all if a friend/friend's delegate called me and said that in a tough spot.

There are many websites that let people sign up for chores or meals for families in your situation. I think Caring Bridge is the most popular, but there are many.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 9:28 PM on August 31, 2013 [3 favorites]


I've been setting boundaries about the chores I will take over from him. I will buy him more underpants rather than wash clothes more than once a week. I will not be as fastidious about the recycling. I can't make the pets a special dish everyday and they probably won't notice if I do, anyway. But the household list is still so long and I want to hide in my room just thinking about it.

Can you give us the rest of your household list because I have a feeling a lot more of it could be just dropped, or people could give you time and effort saving ideas.

I say this so you know I'm not an uncaring dog-hater: I made my dog a special dish every day for the last year or so of his life when he was 15; at the very end, I fed him every bite by hand as well. He died, and my new dog (who is 5) does not get a special dish ever!!!! He'll get something extra a few times a week if it's something I'm already making for myself that I know he likes and is good for him (like this vegetable soup he's crazy about for some bizarre reason). But it's not made specially for him. It's okay to stop doing this.

About the recycling, are you doing something extra special with it? I have a garbage can and recycling can side by side. When it's time to throw stuff out, I only have to decide whether to throw it a few millimeters to the right or to the left. That's how fastidious I need to be about it most of the time. If you're spending a ton of time rinsing stuff (like peanut butter jars), can you skip buying those particular things?
posted by cairdeas at 9:33 PM on August 31, 2013 [6 favorites]


If this was a car accident your insurance company should provide you with the support you need - they are obligated to make up for your partner's incapacity - they will pay for house cleaning, meal delivery, and general and nursing type care....
posted by srboisvert at 10:04 PM on August 31, 2013 [2 favorites]


If you are in the US and willing to take time off work, look into FMLA. Situations like this are what it's for.
posted by Beti at 10:04 PM on August 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


You don't have to socialize with people helping you out!

Just wanted to repeat that in case you missed it:)



I don't know how old your daughter is, but our son is almost 2.5 and that shit is hard. Like, I was thinking of posting an AskMe about getting toddlers to listen type hard.

My point is that a few months ago, I showed up on my good friend's doorstep a few blocks away from where I live in tears (yes, I called first!) and then I sat on her couch and broke down completely. It was AWFUL letting someone else know how stressed I had been feeling.

She doesn't have children, but she told me this hilarious story about super conservative friends of hers that were so stressed as new parents, they smoked pot together every night for a few months. (NOTE - I'm not advocating you should smoke pot!!)

The takeaway was that parenthood and everything else is difficult, people understand, they want to help without much fanfare - JUST SAY YES EVERY TIME SOMEONE OFFERS.

Seriously, just say "yes" even if that means you say,"I do need help, and I'm so overwhelmed, I can't organize myself to ask. What are you willing to do? I appreciate the your input and effort. Thank you."

Best wishes to you and your family!
posted by jbenben at 10:06 PM on August 31, 2013


I would try to keep in mind that this too shall pass. Even if your life gets screwed up for months, it's really only months out of many, many years, and at some time or other every single one of us will have a similar situation to deal with. Illness, accident, job loss, home loss from natural disasters or financial catastrophe, aging parents, crime - oh, come on, there are so many difficulties that will happen in your life - this will become part of the past before you know it. Just keep at it and try not to obsess about what will happen if you miss something - if you do, you'll figure out how to make it up later. That's what you do - you just keep doing and eventually you come out on top. Take a moment to realize that most everyone you know has some very serious difficulty going on right now or they have in the recent past or will in the near future - but almost without fail, they'll come through it.

As my friend said yesterday, when we look back over our lives it's always the rough times we remember with a smile - because we had courage and we fought together to make things happen when it was really, really tough.

I hope your husband recovers completely and quickly and I wish you peace and calm in the chaos. DO ask for help - often and of everyone - it makes them feel useful and good.
posted by aryma at 10:51 PM on August 31, 2013


I've had this issue as well with a previous boyfriend. Your household standards can completely slip and everything will be all right. As long as people are not getting ill from dirt, it's okay to let everything go. So what if the whole house is a mess and your bank statements are unfiled and your kid's toys are all over the floor all the time. Just keep everyone alive for a while. It's ok.
posted by 3491again at 12:03 AM on September 1, 2013 [10 favorites]


Your child should sleep away from home 1 night a week minimum so you can get some rest. You also need time to yourself, like a yoga class or something at least weekly. I would go into debt to hire help in this situation. It's an emergency.

You might be surprised by the economics of hiring help, depending on your spending habits before surgery. We ate out a lot as a family and my husband as an active guy ate a lot of food. When he went under the knife I saved hundreds of dollars a month because we didn't go anywhere or do anything. This money can be repurposed for hired help.
posted by crazycanuck at 12:07 AM on September 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


I think a big thing you need to do is pitch some of the responsibility out of the window.

Dishes: Get paper cups, plastic utensils, and plastic cups. You can rinse and toss those into recycling/trash when you're done. Easy. Screw dishes.

Food: Buy some frozen casseroles and family dinners. Get ground turkey or beef and make some sloppy joes. Toss stuff into a crock pot for meals. Ask for meals from helpers instead of cleaning tasks. Then they can just drop something off or make some dinner for you. Buy pre-cooked chicken at the grocery store from the deli.

Toys/Cleaning: Put some laundry baskets around to easily toss toys/extras into so they aren't on the floor. Sort them later. Vacuum once a week, or have someone vacuum while you're at work. Get a bunch of Swiffer products that are easy and quick to use. Also, it's okay to get lazy about it.

Husband Care: See if anyone has a small mini fridge you can put next to the couch/bed for drinks/snacks (they can also be cheap on CraigsList). Put some water bottles and food in there. Get a couple TV trays or a small shelf for other snacks and to eat off of. Put a small trash can by him so he can take care of his own trash. Have him keep a notepad or take notes on his phone for groceries he needs. Keep all the laptop/phone chargers/tv remotes within reach. That way he won't have to ask, except restocking his food and emptying the garbage.

I agree too for getting time off from work to deal with this. At least try to get a few days to get everything set up and take some time to get organized.

As far as the emotions - I'm not sure. I think a big portion will just be to lessen your stress, but it also sounds like this has maybe been a problem prior to this accident. I don't think your husband expects you to be all smiley and happy housewife when you have to do all the work. I think he will understand you grumbling a little with it. But I also think you should not make him feel at all like a burden. I think he will understand eating off paper plates for a while too.

What do you think he would do if the roles were reversed? Maybe ask him that and he can help bring more ideas for your specific situation too!
posted by Crystalinne at 12:46 AM on September 1, 2013 [9 favorites]


Put your most organized/reliable friend/volunteer in charge of organizing the rest of the help.

As an answer to vague "how can I help?" offers: Ask people to bring you ready-to-eat food in disposable containers. Eat it off paper plates with plastic forks, etc. No cooking and no dishes.
posted by Jacqueline at 2:03 AM on September 1, 2013


Yeah, my summer was like this - Himself had surgery that put him in a cast for 2 months. Luckily no kids left at home, but it was still a grim slog. Triage, baby - there are things that are necessary, and things that are optional, and things that are just a waste of time. Necessary is making sure everybody is fed and clean, gets enough sleep, and poops on a regular basis in an appropriate spot. Everything after that is negotiable.
posted by Mary Ellen Carter at 2:57 AM on September 1, 2013 [4 favorites]


As far as household chores, I read somewhere that during crisis mode you can let everything slide except things which tend to pile up,which is pretty much dishes, laundry, trash and animal poop.

And I wouldn't get too bent out of shape about the laundry, either: wash it, dry it, throw it in a basket (unfolded) and stick the basket in a closet or an out of the way corner of the room. I mean, maybe hang up the stuff that could get wrinkly but if you're matching socks up and folding underwear and pajamas and crap like that, let it go for awhile. Sheets can be half-assed, wash cloths can be tossed unfolded into a basket on a shelf in the linen closet, so can towels.

Other things not to worry about too much:

1. Mopping floors. Sweep every couple of days, wipe up any yucky spills with a paper towel, call it good.
2. Vacuuming, other than a quick pass over the main areas once a week.
3. Dusting. Unless you're having to be fastidious about this for allergy reasons, you can let this go for weeks.
4. Scrubbing the tub and toilet (give the toilet a swish with a brush and cleanser when you think about it, wipe the counter, sink and toilet seat with a Clorox wipe every couple of days or so after you brush your teeth.)
5. Kids don't need a full bath every single day unless they are getting really dirty on a daily basis for some reason. Skip the bath a few times a week and just hit the highlights with a washcloth.
6. Beds: If you're making beds every day, stop. If you're changing the sheets every Saturday like clockwork, let it go a little longer.
7. Cooking special food for the dog(!) I mean, I love animals but if I were to the point where I was begrudging having to wait on my injured spouse (and I'm not judging, I am not what you'd call a patient nurse either) the dog would eat his kibble and like it.
8. The family should be getting pretty basic food most nights too, if you are the one having to plan meals, cook & shop for groceries.
9. Recycling: even in this day and age, there are many people who don't recycle at all, ever. While it's awesome that you are someone who does, in the grand scheme of things it doesn't really matter if you slack off on it for awhile. Your trash is not going to be the tipping point between the Earth's survival and destruction. Let it go for awhile, or if it's a legal thing where you are, do the bare minimum.

Anybody that offers to help, take them up on it, especially the ones who offered something specific. It will soon become apparent which ones really meant it and which were just being polite. If there are people who haven't offered but who might be able to do you a favor without putting themselves to too much trouble, it can't hurt to ask. If they don't want to they'll make an excuse and then you just don't ask any more. There doesn't have to be shame or resentment or anything like that involved.

Is there anything your husband can do to help you from his bed/couch/chair? Maybe he could fold the laundry, peel potatoes for dinner, open the mail and pay bills on his laptop, order takeout for supper, order groceries for delivery, read a story or watch cartoons with your daughter while you get a shower, ask his mother to come pick up the kid and take her overnight, etc?
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 4:20 AM on September 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


Oh, I'm so sorry. What a trying time. 2 years ago, my husband and I hosted a sick friend for 2 months after a very serious accident. She was almost completely immobile and needed help with everything from bathroom tasks to putting on socks, and in addition, her accident had been related to a serious, ongoing psychological condition that made everything 10 times more complicated and miserable for everyone. There were 3 of us in a 300 square foot apartment with only 1 bedroom, and my husband and I were working full time. It was the 2 months before I took my PhD qualifying exam (but I didn't have any dedicated study time, just final exams and such), and on top of it all, we were showing our apartment in preparation for moving, so it had to be clean all the time. It was probably the biggest challenge I've ever faced. I felt guilty too. I didn't know how to respond to offers of help, especially when I was so addled it felt like it would be harder to instruct helpers than to do it myself. My husband and I got in a big miserable fight one night (VERY unusual for us, I can't even remember what the problem was) and I stood in the rain crying at 3 AM. It was HARD.

The bright side is that in hindsight, I don't resent the experience at all. I was afraid I would, or at least afraid I would resent my friend, but I don't, not even a tiny bit. I am truly grateful that I was able to give so much of myself to her, and I learned a lot. I'm glad that I learned that I could do it. You can do this too.

1. Can your HUSBAND be responsible for the mental work and organization of helpers? Is that within his reach right now? Fortunately, you and he split work equally, which means he knows what needs to be done - this is actually huge right now because you are NOT the only person on the planet who knows what you need. If he is capable of concentrating and using a computer, he can make your life easier. He can make a Google Doc or similar that can be accessed by all helpers, specifying EXACTLY what must be done, and when, and how. He can write primer on how to do dishes, clean the kitchen or do laundry in your house. He can facilitate schedule organization. WHEN ANYBODY ASKS TO HELP, JUST SEND THEM THE DOCUMENT. They can see what needs to be done, when others have already volunteered, and when they can "fit in".

2. If your living situation allows it, consider putting up some kind of barrier - baby gate? folding screen? simple cardboard sign? - that informs your helpers that beyond that point, PRIVACY IS ABSOLUTELY REQUIRED. If they don't know what to do, they should do their best or simply leave the situation alone, or, even better, consult the guide your husband was hopefully able to make. Don't feel guilty about guarding your privacy fiercely. I know it can feel terrible to have helpers over and not even see them, not even have a smiling face or a chatty word for them, but they are not there for a tea party, they are there to help you. I am an introvert, too. I know how incredibly exhausting it is to attend to guests, EVEN IF THEY ARE CLEANING YOUR KITCHEN. I know how much energy you use up just arranging your face in to something pleasant and saying hello when you're this fried.

3. Get out of your house for at least 10 minutes a day, even if you sleep 10 minutes less. It's stifling in a house full of helpers, a sick person, mess, and worst of all, reminders of all your obligations. Step outside and take in the spaciousness of the outside, even if you're on a city block. This was really critical to my sanity.

4. Does your husband have a "kit" of the stuff he most frequently needs by his side? Does he ask you for water, or tissues, or magazines, or whatever very frequently? If possible, buy him CASES of anything he frequently needs and place them within his reach, along with a trash can. Leave him piles of non-perishable snacks. Set up his environment so he's capable of meeting his OWN needs as much as possible, even when he's incapacitated.

5. Consider placing a hide-a-key so your helpers and let themselves in and out, if you haven't already. Some people aren't comfortable with this, but if you are, you can retreat to a private room (if you have one - we didn't, and I know that can be very hard) with earplugs in and focus on whatever you need to focus on.
posted by Cygnet at 5:08 AM on September 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Just something to consider - I've twice after a daughter (one as a toddler, the other when she was in her twenties) had been in an accident that could have been much worse found myself in a very odd emotional state. The first time I simply sat and literally did nothing (apart from breastfeed, I'd given birth a couple of days before just to complicate things) for a whole day, the other time I became very, very short tempered for a day or two. I think it was part of processing the fact that I could have lost them.
Lots of very good suggestions above. But I wouldn't be surprised if you also feel more like your usual coping self in a few days. So cut yourself some slack for a few days, you won't feel exactly like this until he eventually gets better.
posted by sianifach at 5:34 AM on September 1, 2013


Nobody's going to die if the house is a little less clean and tidy, meais are a little less elaborate, there are some dishes piled in the sink longer than usual, you run out of cheese, and the dog gets a shorter walk. Just do your best.
posted by Dansaman at 6:11 AM on September 1, 2013


Lotsa Helping Hands is the best website for organizing helpers and caregivers. You (or someone you delegate to) can use this as a central check-in point for helpers, so that the vague offer of "Let me know what I can do to help" can be transformed into real-world, practical help. This way people will a) know what practical things they can actually do (housework, pet care, babysitting, etc.) and b) you won't get drowned in casseroles when what you really need is someone to walk the dog.

And definitely talk to your supervisor. It's the time to get as much off your plate at work for the time being. This is a temporary situation, and I'm sure your co-workers have been through or will go through a crisis some time. You'd pull together for them, right? Now it's time for them to pull together for you.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 6:57 AM on September 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


All of this advice is good to the situation, but I don't see any advice on dealing with your feelings. You feel like you want to scream at everyone, but you hold it back. You're frustrated as hell, but you force a smile. You want to be just like all the other people you've seen in your life who take care of the whole world without a single peep of discontent. But the fact is that you're upset and overwhelmed and resentful, and your husband knows it. Really. So I'd say that you need to talk to him about how you're feeling. There's nothing he can do about it at all, but he can listen, and I think at the very least you need that.
posted by disconnect at 8:04 AM on September 1, 2013


I'm so sorry you're having this crisis. I wanted to address your feelings of guilt about accepting help. You should not feel guilty! I have helped other people in situations like this (several small children + surgery or injured family member or new baby or etc.), even though my daily life, like yours, is borderline overwhelming, and it makes me feel great to help!

And you would never have ignored others' need for help, right? If you found out someone was in a really bad spot, you'd offer to make dinner and mean it!

So just remind yourself when you feel guilty that after next summer, you can look out for opportunities to pay it forward. Take the offers now; make the offers later.
posted by palliser at 9:57 AM on September 1, 2013


You want to be just like all the other people you've seen in your life who take care of the whole world without a single peep of discontent.

Try to remember that they think YOU are taking care of the world without a peep, too. You're hiding your stress--so were they.
posted by like_a_friend at 11:17 AM on September 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


Lots of good advice above. I 2nd the paper plates, plastic cups etc. If people ask to cook a meal, say yes and ask them to make something that can be frozen. Also, have breakfast for dinner - toast, eggs, cereal, fruit, that's quick and easy. Let the housework go, unless your sister or mother in law can do it. Buy extra socks and underwear so you don't have to do the laundry so often. Find a dry cleaner that delivers.
Most of all to ease the stress, develop an attitude of gratitude. It might be hard right now but you could be grateful that:
You still have your job and health insurance, mant people don't;
It sounds like your husband will get better, at least he's not permanently disabled or worse;
It sounds like you have some financial stabilty, that's good too;
You have friends and family to lean on;
You have a roof over your head, reliable cars etc.
Take care of what you can and let the rest go. Things will get better. Good luck, breathe deep and keep your head up.
posted by mikedelic at 4:13 PM on September 1, 2013


I'm about to suggest throwing money at this, but we, too, tried to be too frugal, only to find that help isn't expensive as you think. Price things out before you decide you can't afford them.

When I was bed bound for awhile, we had a really hard time predicting our needs at first but found that having somebody there daily helped immensely. We hired someone from craigslist for two hours a day (with a background check; there are several agencies on the web who do this for a minimal fee - at the time you could use a company called Breedlove which seems to have merged with Care). I highly recommend this over an agency, especially if you're around a university - you will pay an agency $25+ an hour and an individual will probably be available for $12-15 or so an hour for housekeeping and helping. In almost all instances, we've found that the people we interviewed as individuals were better fits and that agency workers treated us impersonally and inflexibly. We've returned to this system a couple times when my health was bad. We thought it would be way too expensive before we explored the craigslist option. Post a "gig" ad rather than answering one. In fact, the first person who worked for us (many, many years ago) was $10/hr. So, 2hrs a day, 5 days a week, ~$400 a month, for help every single work day. We helped her get a now thriving business off the ground and we still keep in contact.

I very, very much agree with setting up boundaries with helpers and sympathize. Before I did this, having a helper was a net negative, just like you do. I would spend all my time hiding from her. To a certain degree, having people in your space is just weird and takes some surrender. It was big for me and I'm the one who needed help.

Otherwise: automate stuff! Wash and fold laundry service (hopefully they can pick up and deliver!). Ours ran $20ish a week, including the delicates, which was less than we thought it would be. Meal and/or grocery delivery through Peadpod, Amazon Fresh, Safeway, etc depending on where you are. Get an Amazon Prime membership and get recurring subscriptions to products you use regularly, so they're coming without you needing to think to order them. Explore other options for delivery. It often doesn't cost anything and it saves so much time/effort.

Also, if you need help caring for your husband beyond what your friends/family can provide, you can probably get help from respite care (every county/city has a respite care program in the US). You may be surprised to qualify; we make quite a bit over median income and we qualified for immediate help. That doesn't have to be a strictly nuclear option -- it might be good to get it on hand now, in case there's any processing or paperwork. You pay taxes to put the program in place for families who hit a medical crisis. There's no shame in using it.
posted by sweltering at 6:49 PM on September 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm going through this right now, with a spouse recovering from a serious injury, and me trying to manage housework/cooking/looking after animals plus a fulltime job, so I feel for you.

Things that have helped me [some may not apply to you]

* My work have been very supportive and flexible, allowing me to leave early each day and work from home for a couple of hours.
* Where I live we have free support for accident victims, the home help they have provided has been a lifesaver.
* Prioritising - As others have said, you need to work out what must be done and what can slide for the moment.
* Cooking++ When I cook I make sure to produce sufficient quantity so that there will be an extra meal and/or leftovers for my spouses lunch.
* Accepting help. It can be difficult, but it's worth it.
* Making "us" time. I try to make some time every evening for us to spend together, either watching a TV show, or just talking - it's important for the two of you to stay connected. If you're feeling overwhelmed, it's important to talk to each other about it, rather than putting on a brave face.
* Look after yourself. You'll be no help to your spouse if you fall apart, so you need to ensure that your own needs don't get overlooked.

Despite all this it is a struggle that takes its toll - I've lost ~10kg since the accident.
posted by HiroProtagonist at 8:55 PM on September 1, 2013


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