Monday, July 16, 2012

How to care for your ill, sick, unwell wife

I've decided this must be a tutorial. The mounting frustration for a woman, when her man can't take care of her when she's really down and out, is quite something, and adds to her illness.
No, I'm ok at the moment. But when I do fall ill, I keep telling myself I must write this post. (All my dear friends who tell me I must talk it out with the hubby, tell him what exactly to do, I've tried this...telling him what he can do to make me feel better etc, but somehow it just does'nt seem to register in his heart :-(

Since men, at least most of them, don't seem to know "how to", while for women it just seems so natural and instinctive.
(Ok, all those men who know how to already, don't read this and don't send me nasty comments, please.)
I'm hoping someday, my husband too will hit upon this when he googles the topic, (if he ever ever looks up the topic, that is!) and learn a thing or two.

So, if your wife is unwell, here are just some of the things you can do to make her feel a tad better:

1. Wake up earlier than her and get the household started. Anyone who's ill likes to stay in bed a little longer than usual. If you know her routine, good. Else just check with her the previous night what you can do in the morning to make things easier for her. Be specific. "I want you to stay in bed longer tomorrow morning, dear. So tell me what I can get done before you're up." She'll most likely turn down your offer. But please don't give up at one "no". Maybe heat the milk, pick up the paper from the front door, fill up drinking water, answer the doorbell, wake up the kids and take them through their morning ablutions, get the kids lunch boxes cleaned up and ready...

2.  But first, when you wake her up, please ask her how she's feeling. That you show concern will make her feel better already. If she says "not too good", ask what it is, listen to the answer, and offer to take her to the doctor/call doctor to fix the appointment. Take her to the doctor. Don't expect her to get there on her own.

3. Most people who are unwell would like something warm to drink first thing in the morning (that's how I am; there may be other preferences). It's usually soothing. Ask if she wants tea/coffee or anything like milk/warm water to drink. And make it. It's not all that difficult. If you don't know how to make any of these, ask, and she will tell you. Or she'll get out of bed in frustration and make it herself (don't rule that possibility out either! but try anyway)

3. If you can manage to make breakfast, nothing like it. The humble toast will be acceptable, usually. Or if you can make some broth/ porridge/ ganjee, do that. Nothing fried or elaborate. Or if she's up to it despite being ill, maybe order in her breakfast of choice, depending on whether she can stomach food from outside. In terms of Indian food, something like idli, pongal/khichdi, ganjee, a plain rava upma may not be bad options to rustle up, if you can manage them. Google recipes the previous night if you want to make a serious effort. Or call your mom/aunt/her mom and ask (that'll also make you popular {if you call her relatives that is, not YOUR mom} and maybe offers of help will pour in). Don't try to surprise her. It'll help if you check with her if ingredients are at home. She'll possibly give you an easier option than you wanted to try.

4. Try and take leave from work, at least for a day to be there for her. The gesture will be so appreciated, you will not imagine it. I may be generalising, but women don't think twice about using up their leave to care for a sick husband/child. Somehow men don't seem to do it as willingly. Do it, and see her glow.

5. Offer to call in for help, if you really can't manage. A hired nurse for an illness/fracture that may make her immobile will sort things out, if you can afford to pay for it. Else, offer to request the help of a family member/ relative she's comfy with. People might be more willing than you think. Just make sure you help them in their time of need/ illness.

6. If you have kids, and she has something contagious, keep them away from her. Tell them what it is, don't make them cry for their mother. Take care of their basics -- feeding/ bathing/ playing/ entertaining. If it's older kids, get them ready for school. It' ok if they don't bathe for a day. It's ok if you fill their lunch boxes with an easy meal one day. If they are old enough to communicate, ask them what you can do for them, and ask them to help you too, since mummy is ill. You won't imagine how cooperative they might just be. But don't be angry if very young ones don't understand. It's bad enough for them not to have mummy by the side; they definitely won't be able to handle an upset dad. Some kids will know their mum's routines better than you will. And they might be more handy in the kitchen and around the house than you are -- they'll show you a few things.

7. Once the kids are packed off, discuss with you wife what to do for lunch. If she's feeling better, you both together might rustle up something in the kitchen. The same goes for dinner. You can in fact tell her that you don't really know what exactly to do, but want to help her and make her feel better. Tell her she just needs to give instrutctions and it will be done. Admit that you'd rather do what she wants than try something and bungle up, if that's a possible thing for you to admit. The idea should go down well with the wife.

8. Draw her water for the bath, if she feels up to it. Offer to massage her head/back if she has an ache (you need to do this only for a mere two minutes -- it's not such a un-doable task).

9. Make sure she takes her medication. Ask "did you take your medicine?" Bring it to her bedside. If she's looking better, offer to set her up in the TV room, or any other place...a change of place might cheer her, rather than wallowing in bed the whole day. Check on her every half hour or so if she has a fever.

10. When you're talking to her, pay attention. Don't sit in the TV room on a sofa and yell half-hearted "Do you want something?" while she's in the bedroom. She may be too weak to scream back. And too pissed if you don't care to walk over to her.

11. Mean what you say. Even if you're upset that you had to stay away from work, and do all these things you don't like doing, don't show it. In the way you speak, in the way you treat her. That hurts. Try to make small cheerful talk, pleasant things, myaybe look at your old photos, play her favourite tape of soft soothing music -- don't bring up a subject in  that you know usually triggers a war between you two.

12. And please, don't keep pointing out saying "see i'm doing so much for you". Women are far more sensitive and will notice it themselves. You don't have to tell them. Most often they thanklessly do these things for you every day.

13. Keep noise levels in the house down. Noise can make one feel more ill -- that means no loud TV, no screaming kids, no thumping music, and don't call over your boisterous friends and have a "boys' day in" because you're at home anyway, for heaven's sake! Save that for later.

14. Most importantly, don't let your enthusiasm flag. Don't start the day in the perfect way and then tire out and just plop down and say "i can't do this any more". Looking after someone who's ill can be tiring, taxing, and a continuous process. Accept that first.

15. And all this does not mean you need to suffer. Make sure you eat and take care of yourself too. If it's something contagious the wife has, you'll have to take precautions not to get it from her. Because if you fall sick too, the situation will only get worse. (If it's something like pox, you may have to pack off the kids and stay with her).

16. Check with her if clothes need to be put into the washing machine (if you have kids, the school uniforms may be the emergency washing needed), if dishes have to be loaded in the washer, or if you have a maid/help what instructions must be given.

17. Just as you kickstarted the household, you might also have to wind things up -- shut out lights, lock doors, bring in the laundry, put kids into bed (after getting them to study/do homework/ feed them), put out the coupons for the next day's milk supply etc.... and remember, YOUR WIFE DOES MOST OF WHATEVER YOU DID THIS ONE DAY, EVERY DAY, DAY AFTER DAY.

18. NOTE: If you really really can't do any or all of this, or just find it too daunting, at least offer to take her over to her parents or any close aunts who live near enough for her to bear the journey, and with whom she'll be comfortable recovering. She needs some rest.

Please, any woman who reads this and wants to add her own tips, please leave a comment and I'll add that to my growing list!

NOTE: This post was inspired by my other post which I'd written down in February 2011 titled "Why can husbands never care for sick wives?"