DEAR ABBY: I am the sole caregiver for my husband, who has a devastating illness for which there is no cure. He can't walk, talk, express himself or take care of his personal hygiene. He will not get any better.
This is my plea: If you are my friend or acquaintance and you see me at the grocery store or beauty shop, please do NOT ask me how my husband is.
I know you care and are concerned, but a kinder way to show it would be to allow me a few minutes of normalcy. Ask me where the macaroni is, brag about your kids or recommend a good movie I can rent. The sad truth is, my husband will not know you asked about him, and won't understand when I tell him.
I have lived this nightmare 24 hours a day, every day, for a long time. Sometimes I even dream about it. It never ends.
So, should you see me somewhere, please realize that I'm having a brief reprieve and need some time to NOT think -- or talk -- about my husband's illness.
Thank you, Abby, for printing this. -- ILLINOIS READER
DEAR ILLINOIS READER: Your letter is a first, and I am printing it in hopes that it will help you and others in this stressful situation. Caregivers who are living with this heartache need an occasional reprieve.
In past years, when families lived closer together, they could rely on each other in such situations. Today our society is more mobile, and family members may live too far apart to offer the support a caregiver needs. Organizations such as the National Family Caregivers Association fill the gap.
For a small membership fee, it sends a newsletter, puts you in touch with other caregivers, offers help in locating resources to assist in handling your responsibilities, and includes a report validating the commonalities of the caregiver experience.
For information, send a postcard to: National Family Caregivers Association, P.O. Box 5871, Capital Heights, Md. 20791-5871. A self-addressed envelope is not required. Please allow three to five weeks for the material to reach you.