It’s Not About You, Caregivers
I am messy.
I’ve always been messy.
My desk at work looks like an explosion of papers. I love to read, so it’s not uncommon for my bedroom floor to have books scattered like leaves on the ground on a fall day.
I also tend to buy the same product multiple times, so as not to run out. Last year, when I had the flu, I bought a bunch of NyQuil, DayQuil, several generic cold/sinus medicines (in case they worked better), and bottles of elderberry. There was enough medicine to treat a small village.
This weekend, I learned a valuable realization: I’m a hoarder. As a result, there is a lot of clutter at home. I know I’m a hoarder because my wife, Jill, who has Huntington’s disease, has recently been watching “Hoarders,” and she pointed out that I’m like the people featured on the show.
She has been asking me lately to organize the books on the floor and clean several spots in our home, including a few closets. And I’ve been lackadaisical in my response, partly because I don’t like to organize, but mainly because of the psychological reasons that lead a person to hoard.
Frustrated, and also irritated by a recent bout of hives, Jill yelled at me. When she does, she gets my attention because it’s so rare. Clutter is not something she needs in her life. It makes her anxious to see it, and it annoys her because she prefers a tidy home.
She does not need stress in her life.
I realize this and have been trying to reduce her stress in various ways. For instance, I try to always drive the car. (Jill has been known to get a tad annoyed with other drivers at times.) When standing in a store line — Walmart’s line is a prime example — there are many overlapping sensory distractions: kids crying, the register beeping, the hubbub of voices in a crowded line. Overloading on a lot of nearby sensory noises overwhelms her, so I usually tell her that she can wait outside where it’s relatively peaceful, while I deal with putting the groceries on the conveyor belt and completing the transaction.
But in this particular case, I was neglectful in my organizing and cleaning, and she got justifiably angry at me.
I felt awful. I was wrong.
I apologized. I cleaned. I organized. I learned an important lesson as her caregiver: I must overcome whatever holds me back from helping her in any area of her life. I need to be there for her. I can’t fail her. I have to do my best to protect her from stress and from anything that will make her feel like I’m not caring for her.
Rule 101 as a caregiver: It’s not about you; it’s about the person you love. You have to make their lives easier. So I resolve to do that in the future, especally when it comes to organizing, cleaning, and decluttering our home.
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