Help us survive
May 29, 2015 8:43 AM   Subscribe

My partner was recently injured in a traumatic accident that, miraculously, resulted only in orthopedic injuries that have him on bed rest for at least 8 weeks. The upside? I have the whole summer off the care for him. The downside? I have the whole summer off and we both might go crazy.

We had a summer full of travel, a LONG around-the-house to-do list (most of which I am not skilled/strong enough to accomplish alone), and outdoor activities planned. Obviously, we are both super bummed.

He can get around in a wheelchair, and with a walker if absolutely necessary, but he really can’t bear any weight. He did not have surgery and is totally coherent/fine other than being in occasional pain when the meds wear off. We unfortunately live in a tiny, non-accessible house and it doesn’t seem worth it to make any modifications given the short time frame of his wheelchair-boundedness. This limits our ability to leave the house, plus he is easily fatigued. At least in the near future, he needs someone with him all the time to help him move around and bring him necessary things.

Any tips/advice for how to survive a long, boring, painful summer on bedrest? For him as the patient, me as the caretaker, and us as a couple.
posted by raspberrE to Health & Fitness (15 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
 
Set up a care group with friends and family, where people can sign up to do stuff like grocery shop, drop off meals, run errands, hang out, etc.
posted by rtha at 8:45 AM on May 29, 2015


Spend a lot of time in parks. They're still outdoors, they're wheelchair accessible, and it gets you out of the house together doing a happy thing.
posted by aniola at 8:49 AM on May 29, 2015 [8 favorites]


Edit: forgot to finish title of post... didn't mean to be so melodramatic!
posted by raspberrE at 8:58 AM on May 29, 2015 [8 favorites]


Pod casts, movie marathons, TV series, audio books? Maybe you guys can get a summer-only, weekly game night going with neighbors or friends? This way you get a little break from being the only people you see every day. If the weather outside is nice enough, and you can get outdoors easily, maybe setting up a coffee or tea ritual. Same time each day that you take a break outdoors for coffee or tea or whatever. Its fun to watch the summer unfold and see the changes in the plants and animals. I find such time turns into something I look forward to every day. Sorry that happened to him! Good luck to both of you, and wishes for his speedy recovery!
posted by WalkerWestridge at 9:05 AM on May 29, 2015 [3 favorites]


Try and organise friends to do some of the carer work during his "needs someone constantly" phase so you can go out and relax on your own and you both get time away from each other. If you can't find friends available locally, look for a college/high school kid who wants to make a bit of cash during the summer?
posted by the agents of KAOS at 9:06 AM on May 29, 2015


Think of ways to lure his friends round, both to keep his social muscles exercised and to take the weight off you and give you time to yourself. Ideas for this which may or may not suit various people or groups of friends in his life:

- book group
- chess
- games night (invest in a console and some games you can multiplayer the heck out of if you don't have them already, if you're not into games then get some recommendations, it's an ace, involving, sit-down activity that he can also do alone)
- life drawing: take turns being model and artists (does not have to be nekkid) this is way more fun (and funny depending on your skill level) than it sounds
posted by greenish at 9:27 AM on May 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


- Can you temporarily move to an accessible home while he heals? Swap with someone, rent it out, offer it on AirBnB?

- Can he handle car travel? Maybe road trips with stays at hotels with accessible rooms.

- Host weekly potlucks.
posted by ShooBoo at 9:40 AM on May 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


Nthing having other people pitch in so you can have breaks. My grandmother nearly drove herself and everyone else around her crazy by insisting on caring for my grandfather 24/7.
posted by Tamanna at 9:45 AM on May 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


Set up a schedule with friends, so that you both have time outdoors. The friends can help carry him outdoors and back in. Outdoors/ sunshine/ fresh air is really good for healing. The schedule should also include time for you to go to the library, shopping, have lunch or coffee with friends, take a class, and otherwise spend time on your own; this is for mutual sanity. If it's OMG I just need an hour to myself, feelings get hurt, you get frazzled. But when it's Wednesday, library and coffee with Lee day, no big deal. And partner will have a stack of books, the remote, mobile phone, radio.

Learn something. An instrument, a skill that can be studied online, knitting, ham radio, whatever. Having a project provides focus, a goal, mental stimulation, and distraction. Ask on freecycle or check craigslist for stuff you might need. People have lots of stuff in their attics. Read a couple of books together, it's really fun to be able to discuss.

Talk about how you'll handle the stress of the change in your relationship. There will be times when you resent one another, get pissy, tired, stupid. Talking about it beforehand can help pave the way to getting over it with less baggage.

Subcsribe to joke-a-day emails, make sure you rent stupid-funny movies, have silly hat day, do whatever you can to bring in laughter. It's healing and it makes a lot of things better.
posted by theora55 at 9:46 AM on May 29, 2015 [2 favorites]


That's a LOT of togetherness. Come up with separate projects to work on a little bit every day, even if his is just some kind of research/intellectual project (genealogy, rabbit-holing a particular interest, magic tricks). You will have chores that you'll be doing alone, but try to set aside some you-time that isn't basic hygiene, exercise, or running errands - time to read a book or do some writing or painting or drawing or something creatively fulfilling.

He may not have the stamina for long visits or engaging in complex entertainment, at least at first. A healing body taps your resources pretty bad, even before pain meds, so you may have to find entertainment that is pretty breezy and if you do have visitors, tell them up front that you may have to throw them out.

Depending on how really badly non-accessible your house is, this may not be at all feasible, but at least check into options for non-permanent accessibility modifications, because there's all kinds of cool technology out there. If he's got a physical therapist or occupational therapist, ask them where you should be looking and what search terms to use.
posted by Lyn Never at 10:05 AM on May 29, 2015


I'm glad that your partner is safe after his accident! I was injured late last summer and was not able to bear any weight for almost 8 weeks. Like many people, I experienced an initial wave of disappointment as I realized that I would have to cancel almost all of my plans. Both my house and my office were inaccessible buildings -- and my partner was 3,000 miles away doing an internship. It was very trying for me and I don't think most people around me really grasped how limited I was. Many wonderful friends stepped up and brought me groceries, did my laundry, picked up medications, drove me to and from work, made my bed, and so on. But gosh, it was still an isolating time. My partner was able to visit for a week in the middle and he was initially surprised I think by how difficult (and painful) ordinary activities like bathing were for me. There is just so much that people who have not been in that position before aren't immediately aware of. All of this to say, I heartily second the suggestions above to help organize social activities where folks come over to hang out. It really cheered me whenever someone called or stopped by. If you two can recruit a friend to come over which allows you to take a break and go to a yoga class or something, even better! I would also suggest having some sort of countdown for "weeks to go" until recovery. To pass the time, podcasts, audiobooks, and a casual film series sound like fun ideas. If you have the financial flexibility to hire someone to help out or temporarily move to an accessible place, I would go for it. In my experience, 8 weeks moves very slowly when you can't get to the shower on the second floor. Looking back on my experience, I do wish I had thought to tackle some projects that didn't require standing. It's a crummy time for many things, but it might be a great time to finally read Moby Dick or empty your inbox or write letters to faraway friends.
posted by pinetree at 10:08 AM on May 29, 2015 [2 favorites]


If you have a little extra money, spend it to get out of the house. You might even consider a shorter trip somewhere like a semi-local hotel (call first to make sure it's accessible). If it requires a little extra money for a cab or something like that, it's still likely to be worth it--if only for the hilaritragic memories of that time you both ended up cursing at a strange toilet at 2am.

Also consider throwing a party. Birthday party, house party, "luau at home" party, whatever you can do. You seem like you have a good head on your shoulders and a good sense of humor so I am sure you can come up with something. It'll help break up the monotony to have people over.

Consider looking into things that will help your partner be relatively independent if they're available, like portable urinals and things like that. They're weird (it's never not weird to have a jug of pee sitting next to you) but might allow you more time alone and/or out if your partner gets the hang of them.

(Source: spent 2+ months wheelchair bound after orthopedic injuries and nearly went insane...but made it with some funny stories).
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 10:16 AM on May 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


Oh, and nothing made the time fly like video games. I'm not a big video game person, but I played a lot of Sims 3. I found games to be much more immersive and satisfying than tv/similar media. Again, this is a place where spending a bit of money might be worth it, if there's a game or system that he's wanting to try out.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 10:17 AM on May 29, 2015


I feel for you. I've had a few summers ruined by broken legs, broken hips/pelvis, and once 2 broken arms. Oh how I feel for you. Sorry this is so long.

First, admit off that bat there are going to be times of crankiness, individually and together. There's going to be fights and arguments. He's going to be frustrated about things; you're going to be frustrated about things. Talk about that now - what you're worried about, what might come up, how much it sucks. Communicate. Depending on how your relationship works, maybe you need a "code phrase" or something that indicates one of you needs alone time, or that it's not that you're actually mad about X, it's just the situation. Don't blame. Be open and don't let the feelings build up. Figure out how you can get through those times together, and what you might need individually and as a couple. You're both allowed to feel miserable, angry, depressed, helpless, resentful, etc. And it's hard to watch someone you love in pain. There also might be moments of intimacy, embarrassment, or dealing with his body that are going to bring your relationship to a whole new level - be honest, open, and have a sense of humor.

Second, if you can get outside on a patio, open windows, buy plants, whatever, do what you can. Bring the outside in; get as much sunshine as possible. One summer my mom set up a window garden for me with herbs and a few veggies, which I started from scratch with seeds and then had to carefully tend - I loved it.

Third, get a routine and stick to it. Keep to as much normality as you can.

Fourth, take care of YOU. Schedule spa treatments, go to a coffee shop, visit a bookstore. Do this frequently. Don't feel guilty about it, either. You can take much better care of him if you're not bedraggled and bored yourself. It will also give you something to look forward to and if you go a coffee shop you can report on the people, or bring him back a latte, or whatever. And if you can, find a place to vent - message boards, friends, a journal. Understand your limits and ask for help when needed. Don't try to do it all, either. Exercise and eat right, too.

Fifth, if you can rent things to make his stay around the house easier, do it. You might rent a shower chair, for instance, or even buy a raised toilet seat - it might be 80 dollars or so, but divide that 80 by 8 weeks, x times a day, and depending on your budget it could be worth it. Not knowing how he's hurt, just a few suggestions: a hand help sprayer for the tub; a portable wheelchair ramp; a toilet safety frame; baby wipes; cold therapy treatment equipment or even just good icepacks; and a bedside/chairside cart that's rollable.

Sixth, find ways you can work together that gives him something to do that makes him feel productive, too. It's not just the dependence, it's the lack of productivity and responsibility that can impact him negatively. Maybe he can fold t-shirts or dry the dishes. Meals are great for this, because it's really important for you both to eat right, and it might be something he can do sitting down, such as peel potatoes, shuck corn, or slice veggies. Put him in charge of the menus, for example. You'll shop if he plans - he'll feel like he's contributing, and brings back some equality to your relationship as partners. Work your way through a cookbook if you have the budget, or experiment. Try cooking meals for the places you were going to travel, maybe?

Seventh, make plans for after his bed rest to give you both something to look forward to. 8 weeks seems like a long time, and it is, but right now that's only June and July. Depending on how badly he's hurt, August and September still beckon. For example, maybe you can't go camping, but at the end of August he may be walking enough on his own for a picnic in the park.

Eighth: If it was a really traumatic accident, your partner might have some feelings to work through about it. Maybe he could have died, and he needs to think about that. Or he blames himself. There's lots of feelings that he might have about what happened. Let him talk through it, and encourage him to do so. Same for you! It's not uncommon to be traumatized by a traumatic accident - and it might take a while to work through the surface.

Ninth: Loving the suggestions in here of what to do to occupy time. Talk about something you've always wanted to do if you have the time - because now's your chance.

Tenth: Keep a sense of humor. Thank each other. A lot. And try to keep to the same or more levels of affection - lots of kisses, cuddling, and other physical intimacies to remind yourselves that you're a couple, not just a caretaker and caretakee. Something I read here on MeFi that has helped a lot - before you go to sleep, tell each other something good about the day.

And lastly, if he has a cast, it's going to get itchy and gross under there. Help him scratch it. Unless he has stitches. For the love of everything, don't insert anything into a cast to scratch if he has stitches. Seems like common sense until the itchiness overrides all sense and you rip out a stitch.

Feel free to memail me if you're looking for someplace to vent. Good luck!
posted by barchan at 10:24 AM on May 29, 2015 [9 favorites]


These are all great answers, but I thought I'd second theora55's suggestion of learning something new - but for your partner, if they are feeling up to it. A member of my family had a similar bedridden period and ending up digging into a programming skill they had been interested in for a while. They were able to use a laptop in bed, it kept them busy and motivated and engaged, and ended up being important in their career later on. (Of course it doesn't have to be a marketable skill! Just something they are interested in!) Best of luck!
posted by blu_stocking at 10:51 AM on May 29, 2015


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