Sometimes all you can do is laugh. The following is an excerpt from my book, Confessions of an Imperfect Caregiver.
When he first came to live with us, the only things he asked us to buy for him were Milk of Magnesia and prune juice. He had prescriptions for stool softeners and laxatives issued by his former doctors and continued by his new doctor. He constantly complained of constipation, greeting everyone he spoke to, including strangers, with “Hello. How’s everything? My bowels don’t move.” If he did happen to go, he made sure he told them about that as well, in great detail. It soon became clear he was taking far too much of the stuff. Every day, in the morning and at midday, he’d drink a large glass of prune juice, followed by Milk of Magnesia. Often he’d wait a few moments after taking it, look at his watch, and take some more. A few moments later he’d do it again. One day, after just telling me he’d had a bowel movement, I saw him drink another large glass of prune juice and reach for the Milk of Magnesia.
“Why are you taking that? “ I asked.
“For the constipation,” he said.
“But you just went.”
“That don’t count. It was all liquid.”
That’s when I knew I had to do something. No matter how we tried to explain it to him, he wouldn’t accept that it was the laxatives that were causing his problem. The more he took, the worse it got—and the more he worried—resulting in a vicious cycle that was interfering in his normal bodily functions. His psychiatrist said that it’s not unusual for a schizophrenic to keep track of what goes in and out of his body. In his mind, solid food was going in but nothing solid was coming out. That meant something was very wrong. Once I began to limit his access to prune juice and Milk of Magnesia, and started monitoring his use of laxatives, he started showing signs of stress. He paced and muttered to himself and began making frequent trips to the bathroom where he’d sit for hours, waiting for something to happen. I hated to see him like that, but I had to ease him off the stuff. His doctor tried to help by telling him that taking too many laxatives could interfere with his other medications and land him back in the hospital. He wasn’t buying it. When I wouldn’t give in, he complained to Mike, and when Mike backed me up, he called him one of the worst insults he could think of.
“You’re nothing but a dictator! You’re another Mussolini, that’s what you are!”
Later, after Rodger calmed down and we were getting ready for bed, Mike looked over at me and shook his head. “Mussolini? Now I’m Mussolini?”
I couldn’t hold it in any longer. The giggles I’d been trying hard to stifle came rolling out. “The Mussolini of laxatives!” I laughed harder. “You Fascist poop dictator!”
Mike looked at me in confusion for a moment, and then the hilarity of the situation hit him and he was laughing as hard as I was. I laughed so hard I got the hiccups, and that made us laugh even more. We ended up rolling on the bed, laughter feeding more laughter, until we were exhausted.
“Oh wow, I needed that,” I said when I was finally able to catch my breath.
“Me too,” Mike agreed. “I don’t know how you do it every day. He’s so damned stubborn. I’m glad I’m not like that.”
“Right.” I poked him the ribs. “Me either. I’m not stubborn. I’m determined.”
“Yes, dear,” Mike said with a grin. “Do you think you can determine to keep loving me through all this?”
“Sure, if you can determine to come over here and give me a kiss.”
“Sure thing, Babe.” He enveloped me in his arms and kissed me, both of still chuckling.
If you’ve have a winning moment that laugh you laughing, I invite you to share it here:
And if you want to vent – Please join me in pinging on Dr. Phil to use his resources to help caregivers via creating a grant for respite care and other kinds of help for caregivers who need it most. Send him a message at www.drphil.com