spouse’s with dementia

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The reality show known as the GOP debates produced a lovely but somewhat disingenuous meme the other night. Moderator Wolf Blitzer (who has to be hoping that someday he can escape back to some semblance of his cooler “scud stud” days before he dies a tool of the main stream media) asked candidate Ron Paul one of those delightful beside the point questions that involve hypothetical scenarios from an alternate United States timeline,

Headline meme’s on Facebook and Twitter embellished the lone gunman’s “yes” response to Blitzer’s “should society let him die” to GOP Audiences Cheer as Ron Paul Proclaims that the Uninsured Should be Left to Die. Which is not what the man said at all, and to be more fair, the audience cheered him on his rather wishy-washy “personal responsibility” point and not about letting a man in a coma die because he didn’t have health insurance.

Personal responsibility is a red herring catch-all phrase in the United States that allows people to safely distance themselves from the reality that many people are responsible and are still caught by rock and hard place scenarios from which only a government  safety net can save them. It’s a word we use when we don’t want to acknowledge that we are really heartless fucks who don’t care about anyone outside our personal circles.

Regardless, the meme spoke and it came down on the side of slightly twisting the event to make Ron Paul, the Tea Party and the GOP in general fit the storyline, which is that people on the right are cold, soulless bastards who want to make over the American government in their heartless, bible thumping, Ayn Rand loving images.

The reality, which is that Blitzer’s what if missed by a country mile, is that most uninsured Americans can’t afford health insurance and that Ron Paul lives in a fantasy world where churches and other charities still take care of these people. This, however, wouldn’t have made as compelling of a soundbite. It certainly wouldn’t have fit in a Tweet.

In keeping with their newfound zeal to fight half-truth and blatant lies with more of the same, the energized Left pounced all over The 700 Club’s Pat Robertson yesterday with a similar eye for clever editing and disingenuous headlines.

Robertson does this quaint Q&A during his broadcast. Viewers send in questions, and he plums the depths of his holy man status to advise them.

The Crooks and Liars (and they couldn’t have named themselves better if they tried) website quickly and crudely edited this gem*, which sped about the social media like new gossip in a high school lunchroom.

Pat Robertson Says Divorce Terminally Ill Wife went wild to the point that the mainstream was forced to pick it up and repeat the nonsense.

Nonsense because that’s not really what Robertson said. In a rare compassionate take on his own brand of Christianity, he admitted that wanting to move on from a marriage that has been effectively ended by one spouse’s dementia is an ethically difficult one, but that he would not judge someone who did. In his opinion, a man who wanted to do so should make sure his wife is well-cared for and divorce her though he admitted that perhaps an ethicist  would be the better person to ask.

I have little patience with hypotheticals that aren’t really. People die from lack of health insurance all the time. Spouses are effectively widowed by dementia all the time. Let’s not play with this scenarios as though they aren’t thorny and real. Just because you may have avoided some tragedy or other doesn’t make it just another thought exercise.

Anymore I can’t distinguish between Left, Progressive, Right, Moderate, Conservative, Liberal. It’s all shrill. Or half-lie to “make a point”. Or making light of the very real lives of very real people to make a point like the Robertson meme in particular. It’s mostly bullshit that distracts from the work that needs to be done to solve the actual problems that are crushing the democracy right out of the country.

A Facebook/Twitter friend, who suffers from a life-threatening illness, took understandable exception to the overlaid implication that abandoning sick/terminally ill spouses is okay. She comes at the meme from the opposite side of the equation from myself. In some ways, the sick person has the upper hand because they are, rightly, awarded the lion’s share of the sympathy, but speaking as the former spouse of a man who had dementia, there are two sides to every story regardless of how tragic it is.

She was appalled by Robertson’s stance that dementia leaves essentially a “walking dead person” in its wake, but that’s exactly what it does. And just because it makes you uncomfortable to “go there” doesn’t make it less a fact.

First they become a complete stranger, Then they devolve into a stranger who doesn’t know you. Finally, they become a breathing corpse. A simplified version. There is more, and most of it is sad, lonely and soul-crushing, so I will spare you the finer points.But “walking dead” is a good, if stark, analogy.

Like Robertson, I don’t fault anyone who wants to cut and run. I’d have run a hundred times if I’d had the opportunity. I am not a better person because I didn’t.

Loyal spouses are patted on the head for their exemplary capacity for self-sacrifice just as the terminally ill who fight tooth and nail, even when they and their families would be better off if they didn’t, are given posthumous gold stars for “courage”. It’s textbook. It’s Hollywood. And it’s beside the fucking point.

Sometimes I understand perfectly why Obama always looks like a middle school teacher just after his worst class of the day. Are there any grown-ups left in the room down south anymore?


*You can see the clip in its entirety here.

The previous entry brought this particular topic back to the forefront of my mind again. When something awful happens to you, or when someone close to you dies, everyone offers their assistance. Whether in person or via a note or card, the words vary little. “If there is anything at all I can do to help, please don’t hesitate to ask.” But you do. Hesitate. And invariably you don’t call. But when you do…well, be prepared to not be helped. And that is a best case scenario. The flipside is you will be made to feel as though you are inconviencing the person who so sincerely implored you to allow them to be useful in some small way in the first place. Or worse still, there is the bait and switch in which you ask for something very specific, the samaritan agrees and then turns around and tries to talk you into accepting some other form of “help” in its place. Usually something you don’t need that will actually make work for you but is easier, quicker, less burdensome for the person while still allowing him or her to feel as though another gold star has been placed behind his or her name in that book God uses to assess our worthiness of his love. A little fyi to all, the next time you are overcome with desire to offer your services in a crisis or to the newly bereaved, stop yourself. The last thing this person needs is another obligation on the to do list. It is a burden to be expected to ask for help when it is obvious to one and all that you actually need it. If you see something that needs to be done, simply ask the person if it is okay for you to go ahead and do it. Case in point, the winter after my husband’s diagnoses was a fairly snowy and blistering cold one. My daughter was too small to be outside with me while I shoveled our driveway and sidewalks, but I was very leery of leaving her indoors with her father. He was suffering from moderate dementia already and none too steady on his feet. So, my husband’s uncle called to offer his services to shovel the walks. He had a snowblower and a truck to haul it in. Great, I thought and told him sure. He replied, just let me know when you need me. If you can’t already see the problem then you don’t read very well. Needless to say, Uncle did not help me get the walks shoveled, I ended up with frostbite on all my toes, and my daughter developed a rather strong aversion to being alone with her dad. People mean well, but the road to hell is paved with their selfish souls. We all want to appear compassionate and seem helpful and that is about it. Actually rearranging our own lives to come to the aid of friends and family does not provide the same ego boost as just offering to. The last two days of my husband’s life, everyone descended on the hospice. This after mostly ignoring him for three months he was there. There is nothing like impending death to light a fire under relatives and friends. And they all uttered variations of the “whatever I can do” mantra. And even after nearly three years of mostly being let down, I still asked for help. I didn’t get it. My close friend, Vicki and her husband, were amazing as they had been all along. A few others came through with odds and ends. My aunt and my mother came running without hesitation. My father, who was quite ill himself, was wonderful. But, as for the rest, it was just words.