How can I not get so agitated by my ill parent's moaning?
January 25, 2012 1:16 AM   Subscribe

How can I not get so agitated by my ill parent's moaning? I live with my parents and take care of my dad while my mom works during the day. He has had medical problems that have left him temporarily unable to move around much, and now he has a yeast infection on his butt that is making just sitting painful at times. I can hear him sometimes moaning in pain in the other room. I can't just put on headphones, because I have to be able to hear when he calls me for help. It's having almost a physical effect on me. I get disgusted and aggravated when I hear this, and the stress is keeping me from getting much done. Is there any way I can manage this?
posted by vash to Health & Fitness (23 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Is it the sound itself that's bothering you, or the emotional meaning of the sound?
posted by hungrytiger at 1:27 AM on January 25, 2012

Just for a comparison, I dealt with a similar situation with a stranger when I was in the hospital. I shared the room with him and he was constantly moaning and frequently howling. I had friends bring earplugs AND headphones from home because not only was it keeping me from sleeping, it was making me really agitated and uncomfortable.

So there may be a non-emotional component here, but just a reasonable reaction to the sounds of another human in pain.

As for how to deal with it without shutting it out physically, that seems really tough. Perhaps trying to think of it humorously without appearing derisive of him?
posted by MonsieurBon at 1:31 AM on January 25, 2012

Er, sorry, by non-emotional I meant "not having to do with his relationship with you."
posted by MonsieurBon at 1:31 AM on January 25, 2012

I can't just put on headphones, because I have to be able to hear when he calls me for help.

Is there perhaps a technological solution to this? How about getting some kind of remote-control intercom or buzzer or alarm, one with light perhaps. You can tell your dad "Dad, I want to be sure I hear you if you need me, so press this button if you do." Then, you can put on your headphones.
posted by vacapinta at 1:44 AM on January 25, 2012 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: I could tell him to call my cell phone, but he's keeps telling me he's weak and can't reach for things. He'll call me into his room just to hand him a water bottle from the table beside him.
posted by vash at 1:50 AM on January 25, 2012

Best answer: if he's calling you into his room just to hand him a water bottle next to him, it's possible that he just wants attention. that might also be the reason for some of the moaning. maybe you can 'proactively' visit him for a bit every hour/couple of hours, offering him the water next to him or asking him if he wants anything....

and maybe, just maybe, his moaning and frequent calls will die down a bit or he'll be able to call you on the cell phone

not at all sure this would work but it might be worth a try
posted by saraindc at 2:18 AM on January 25, 2012 [10 favorites]

Best answer: Maybe you could use a baby monitor with a set of lights indicating the noise level, and then just pop on those headphones to block out the noise for the sake of your own sanity? (IME, too, it's normal for sounds of pain/distress to cause a visceral stress response, and it's exhausting to be constantly exposed to it.)

As probably many parents who've used a monitor can testify, it doesn't take long to get used to reading the flashes of light to see if it's just an occasional moan or other random sound, or if it's something requiring a response. And maybe you and your father can even agree on some recognizable noise pattern (repetitive? loud?) which you will easily recognize visually on the monitor as a signal for help.
posted by sively at 2:35 AM on January 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

This wireless doorbell/ alarm also has a flashing light notification - it has a very long range!

There are cheaper ones without the light - you could probably still listen to music with headphones and hear a doorbell.
posted by barnone at 3:21 AM on January 25, 2012

This one's a bit cheaper and it still has a flashing light.
posted by barnone at 3:23 AM on January 25, 2012

We use a wireless doorbell so that I can get my partner (and vice versa) without waking up our baby. It works great.
posted by the young rope-rider at 3:44 AM on January 25, 2012

Response by poster: Can you give me the brand and model number of the doorbell you use?
posted by vash at 4:03 AM on January 25, 2012

Compassion meditation might help with your (completely understandable) feelings of annoyance and disgust. There are some free podcasts available here. You're obviously demonstrating your compassion by caring for your father, but actively cultivating it, for him and for yourself, might help relieve your distress at hearing the sounds.

But really, if he's moaning out loud, his pain (or perhaps his anxiety?) isn't being managed properly.Is there any way he can get access to palliative care? (It's not just for people who are about to die, it's about relieving suffering regardless of disease stage). Or can you talk to his care provider about better painkillers or sedatives?
posted by embrangled at 4:07 AM on January 25, 2012 [15 favorites]

But really, if he's moaning out loud, his pain (or perhaps his anxiety?) isn't being managed properly.Is there any way he can get access to palliative care? (It's not just for people who are about to die, it's about relieving suffering regardless of disease stage). Or can you talk to his care provider about better painkillers or sedatives?

This is what I came in to say. If he's moaning loudly and frequently enough that it is driving you mad, it sounds like he may need his pain managed better. I don't have a lot of experience with this but I think sometimes you have to be really assertive with caregivers to make sure they take pain seriously and treat it. Of course, not knowing all the details of your situation it is possible they are already doing as much as can be done. But if you're not sure, it can't hurt to bring it up with his doctor.

Not to be unsympathetic to you, that sort of thing would make me want to stab out my eardrums too.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 4:32 AM on January 25, 2012 [3 favorites]

I think I'm reading this differently to the way some other commentators are... I think it's natural and empathetic to be upset. Humans respond instinctively to the sound of other beings in pain, it's not something you can help. At the moment you don't feel you can do more than you're doing, so this is becoming a problem for you and you're experiencing your natural response as something unwanted, and it turns into irritation. But at the root of it, I think, is the sort of instinctive compassion that is very difficult to turn off altogether. I think you need to accept that this is going to have an effect on you and that you will have to manage that. Compassion meditation might help, but not because you need to develop more compassion - sometimes meditation can make the experience of compassion more bearable. Maybe you need to discuss this with your father, and make it clear that you can be with him and experience his pain some of the time but not all of the time. I think for both your sakes you're going to have to experience this some of the time, otherwise he'll feel terribly alone and you'll feel guilty and uncomfortable and all the repression will get to you. Maybe you see him every hour or so and spend ten minutes in his room sitting with his pain, and the rest of the time you get to rest with the headphones and the flashing doorbell?
posted by Acheman at 4:48 AM on January 25, 2012 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Here's a nursing trick. Spend a few moments acknowledging his pain and discomfort - "I'm so sorry that it hurts, it must be very uncomfortable." Then, take charge of the situation and say "what can I do to make you feel better?" Tell him that you will not leave the room until he is more comfortable. Then help him position himself with extra blankets and pillows.

Give him a running commentary as you are doing this. "Hmm, this pillow behind your back and the bolster between your legs should take some of the pressure of your buttocks. Can you see the tv in that position? Let's be sure you can reach the water bottle on the table."

Finally, as he settles into his new position, give him positive reinforcement, "yes, you do look more comfortable". Tell him you will check on him every half hour - and do so.

Pain is complex and can be emotionally debilitating for the patient. Most of us can keep a brave face for a couple days or a week, but as the pain continues patients can start to exhibit behaviours that non-medical people have trouble understanding.
posted by TorontoSandy at 6:24 AM on January 25, 2012 [60 favorites]

One of our kids does this when she gets migraines. It drives us all nuts, and makes it harder to be kind to her even though she is in pain. For her, it's a way to relieve the pain, and she doesn't make the sound for attention or when she's in other kinds of pain. @TorontoSandy's advice about regular attentiveness is what we do, checking in and comforting her, and then just trying to ignore the moaning the rest of the time.

From her, when she's well, she says it's not communication, even though it feels like she's whining for attention. It's just something she does that she says makes it hurt less in this particular case, and so we've learnt to ignore it. And shut the door. And sleep on the couch away from the noise. Or put on headphones. A flashing bell-light sounds inspired!
posted by viggorlijah at 7:12 AM on January 25, 2012 [2 favorites]

Sorry, I forgot to write also that when this first happened I was surprised by how angry I was with her for moaning, like actual frustrated rage that I had to go to another room so as not to shout at a sick child. Part of it was frustration at not being able to ease her pain and stop the moaning, but a much larger part was feeling that she was Not Being Properly Stoic. As a child, I was not supposed to complain about being sick, especially crying or moaning, heavens forbid. The proper course was to lie very still and quiet and not disturb a parent with any symptoms unless asked. Once I realised how stupid that was, it was much easier for me to be kind to my daughter while she moaned. Your family dynamic is hopefully far less insane than that, but just in case - it really threw me for a loop, that her moaning made her somehow according to my memories a "bad" sick person.
posted by viggorlijah at 7:41 AM on January 25, 2012 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: On average I'm probably in there more than once every half hour, except when I'm sleeping--then it's like once every two hours. Trying to make sure he's comfortable before I leave might reduce the number of times he calls though. And it's not exactly that I get mad when he moans. It's very hard to explain. Basically I scream in my head and just quit whatever I'm doing until it stops. Maybe overwhelmed is a good word to describe it.
posted by vash at 9:39 AM on January 25, 2012

Here is the bell we use. It's REALLY loud.
posted by the young rope-rider at 10:14 AM on January 25, 2012

It sounds to me like maybe you're a bit burnt out and that's why you're reacting so strongly to the moaning. That would make you feel "overwhelmed." Is anybody helping you with this? Can you look into respite care so you get a break every once in a while? Checking on him twice an hour and being woken up multiple times a night is a heavy burden to carry.
posted by WorkingMyWayHome at 12:14 PM on January 25, 2012 [3 favorites]

What a terrible position to be in. I can only imagine that it goes from merely tearing you up inside to please please please please please stop very quickly. I'm not sure about considering it a kind of communication, though. I've been in worse acute pain for brief moments but one night, when I was by myself, I threw up every ten minutes for several hours, and after a while felt that the pain of vomiting was causing the vomiting. It was entirely overwhelming, and I found myself moaning loudly and I guess sort of humming? I don't know how I started, but doing it felt better than not; I was able to devote some splinter of my attention to doing it and maybe I felt like I was asserting my continuing existence somehow. This is a far too reasonable explanation of what was going on. I guess an injured dog could tell you just as well. I mean, I certainly would have loved some attention, some help, and no doubt would have shut right up if my mom had magically appeared from thousands of miles away. But if she'd left again it would have just come back. And if she'd been there all the time I think her presence would have eventually become less diverting, if you know what I mean. Would have ceased to take the place of creating noise. So I guess what I'm saying is to echo embrangled -- see, if this is relevant, if there is anything his doctors aren't doing for him on the pain management front, because unfortunately there are some health care providers who have been conditioned to treat even the terminally ill as if they were in danger of becoming addicts -- and also to second viggorlijah's daughter. I also think Acheman has a good point about talking, and about how feeling acknowledged and understood can make you feel less alone even if your circumstances can't change. And of course a bell-light.
posted by Adventurer at 1:49 PM on January 25, 2012 [2 favorites]

I was going to suggest the loud doorbell with possible flashing light myself. It's what I've been using for my mom since her surgery. She coughs a lot (the surgery involved resecting her trachea as cancer was in the bronchus) and sometimes the coughing really gets to me and I put headphones on.
posted by IndigoRain at 2:08 AM on January 26, 2012

I wonder if your doctor might prescribe some anti-anxiety meds for you. It may seem odd to ask for meds when you're not the patient but this sure seems like exactly the sort of time you'd need them.
posted by BoscosMom at 4:41 AM on January 26, 2012

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