Life after heart surgery: grumpy patient, defensive caretaker

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Sometimes your loved one/patient is just going to feel like real life sucks. It might be the aftermath of their heart surgery, and maybe it’s also some of their accumulated life disappointments and shattered dreams. Whatever it is, having the best-tasting, healthiest food options for them might not help as much as you hoped.

We can’t speak to all the potential needs, wherever they might be on the spectrum, from TLC to treatment for depression and other mental healthcare issues. But when the dissatisfaction is around food choices, it might feel like it’s your fault for not having prepared enough options or anticipated enough needs.

It would be so easy at these times to respond defensively:

“You have no idea how hard I worked to create all these options for you. Why can’t you appreciate what you have and not complain so much?”

Frustrated caretaker

Just know that their frustration and your defensiveness are both coming from the incredible stress of discovering you have (or your loved one has) a life-threatening illness and the need to try to adjust to it. Remember that moving through that grief is a process. This is a good time to put your defensiveness aside and try to understand.

That brings us to the challenges of having a grumpy patient. Remember that physical pain can cause very bad moods, and so can pain medicines. It’s a vicious cycle and a balancing act. That’s probably why we call sickness a “disease” and not a “vacation.”

This is also a time to break down your own feelings into baby steps. Why do I feel the need to defend myself? Did I actually choose not to do something that I knew he/she would like, or did I just not think of the one thing they want right this minute? Give yourself grace, because if you don’t blame yourself you won’t feel as much of a need to defend yourself. This is all happening inside while your loved one is railing about not being able to have that thing they really, really want.

One last life lesson might be helpful here: sometimes you don’t have to respond with anger when someone directs anger at you. Sometimes it’s really about them, not you, and you can help the most by seeing past that.

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