Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Sickness & Shame

There's a connection between sickness and shame.  Well actually, the connection is that there are some people who see sickness as a source of shame.  They, I'm finding, make for difficult patients since they spend more time trying to cover up their illness than trying to deal with it in a healthy way.

My mother's family seems to have this affliction.  I recall several years ago, my cousin was having surgery.  We all lived fairly near to each other, indeed, he had grown up with us through our elementary school days and for several years in high school as well, and yet, when he was hospitalized, his mother never said a mumblin' word.  She borrowed the car to visit him at hospital, and in her anxiety had an accident.  I believe to this day, that were it not for the accident, we wouldn't have known that he was in hospital at all. 

Fast forward many years, and here we are at my mother's illness.  My aunt rarely calls, though she did call one time and I ran interference, so she might claim that I am preventing her from gaining regular access to her sister.  For that claim to be true though, she would have to have tried and not been allowed to speak, and that doesn't happen.  Mummy on the other hand, has this whole "stiff upper lip Jeeves" thing going.  She will wake up not knowing where she is or perhaps who we are, but "Jeeves" won't ask.  She'll sit in her room and rub her head and hope that something will come to her.  Of course, it rarely does and there is no benefit to telling her day after day that if she's confused she should just ask.  She won't remember having had the discussion the next day, nor indeed an hour later.  I do wish though that somewhere in her soul she could sidestep the shame of her confusion.  We would all be much better off.

So we plod on.  Rather than fret over the fact that she is ashamed, we simply embrace that this is where we are and plod on.  It's not always easy.  Yesterday when the strawberry  banana juice was used as milk for the cereal I had a real moment, but I stiff-upper-lipped it and moved on.  What is there to be ashamed of exactly?  We know enough about this disease now to know that there isn't anything that we can do to prevent it.  My sister and I are trying as best we can to mitigate the damage: regular healthy meals, fruit, exercise, weekly outing to the Senior Center, a granddaughter and whatever else we can come up with.  Shame has no place in this equation.  Would we be ashamed if she had cancer?  Alzheimer's disease is sad yes, but shameful?  I think not.

No comments:

Post a Comment