The Caregiving Wife's Handbook: Caring for Your Seriously Ill Husband, Caring for Yourself

The Caregiving Wife's Handbook: Caring for Your Seriously Ill Husband, Caring for Yourself

by Diana B. Denholm


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A month after proposing marriage, Diana Denholm's husband was diagnosed with colon cancer and later congestive heart failure. Following a heart transplant several of her husband's body systems began failing forcing Diana to become his primary caregiver for more than a decade. The Caregiving Wife's Handbook is a step-by-step communication guide to help women maintain emotional, physical and financial health in their unique role as caregivers to their dying husbands.

Women are suffering physical, emotional and financial burnout as the United States' leading caregivers. Of the 65 million caregivers in the U.S., 66% are women, and these numbers will only increase as the population ages. And while statistics and resources abound for caregivers in general, very little exists for women in their unique role as caregivers to their dying husbands.

Traditionally, caring for a dying husband has been seen as a "wifely duty." Most wives don’t label themselves, and aren’t labeled by others, as caregivers. But advances in medical technology are making this distinction an imperitive since women are under more stress as caregivers than at any other time in history. Although there are generic similarities in caretaking, caregiving for a dying husband is distinctly different, and the longer the dying process, the more complex the problems.

When a husband is in the process of dying for many months or years the experience is quite different than a husband's sudden death. On top of dealing with the tragedy, the wife must figure out how to make life work. Sometimes a woman is married to the love of her life and sometimes not. Some marriages strengthen, while others disintegrate. Some women are in abusive relationships and find the abuse continues, and even increases, during these times, while others find, much to their surprise, that they become the abusers. Still some will start or increase substance abuse and others will have affairs to get by.

The Caregiving Wife's Handbook aims to help women get through their husbands' illness and death with compassion, emotionally whole and without regret by helping them communicate clearly—and in steps—about issues affecting this unique caregiving relationship.

Without specific direction, many women find themselves over the top with stress as their lives change radically. As a board certified medical psychotherapist and primary caregiver, Diana Denholm recognized the need for a step-by-step process to help women communicate with their husbands to avoid irreparable damage and regret.

In The Caregiving Wife's Handbook, you will learn:

To ask questions you may not realize you need to ask

The issues that bother you and a method for categorizing them

What you should and shouldn't discuss with your husband

How to make and prepare for a date to talk about difficult topics

What to do if your husband won't talk

To create "understandings" with your husband

How to deal with his family

You will also learn survival tips from the case histories of Joyce, Fran, Tina, Jean, Susan, and Mary. Their experiences will help you:

Choose roles you should take and those you should avoid

Understand what is “normal” in what you’re experiencing and feeling

Take care of yourself so you can survive and even have fun

Implement do’s and avoid don’ts to make your life simpler

Balance with greater ease

Other topics addressed are:

Sex life/intimacy

Current and future finances



Household duties

Job responsibilities

Irresponsible behaviors

Unrealistic expectations...

The challenges of this time are endless and extreme and the reality often isn’t the beautiful and revered journey often portrayed. When a husband is dying of a long-term illness, the gift of time can allow us to prepare and say all the loving things we need to say, but it can also provide a lot of time for severe stressors and problems to develop. These problems and stressors can be debilitating for the caregiver and provide too many opportunities to say and do things we might regret. The Caregiving Wife's Handbook will give you the tools and support needed to get through your husbands' illness and death with compassion, emotionally whole and without regret.

Let The Caregiving Wife's Handbook support you amidst the grief—all the way through the Final Chapter.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780897936057
Publisher: Turner Publishing Company
Publication date: 01/03/2012
Pages: 168
Sales rank: 550,911
Product dimensions: 5.52(w) x 8.54(h) x 0.52(d)

About the Author

Diana Denholm, PhD, LMHC, holds a doctorate in psychology and became a board certified medical psychotherapist following her doctoral studies at the University of Connecticut. She has been a practicing therapist for over thirty years and while working with clients originated and developed the methods taught in this book. Diana has been a pioneer in converting esoteric methods into practical and easily understood tools. She has successfully used these methods in her work with her many clients and for herself as the primary caregiver during the 11 1/2 years of her late-husband’s illness. Diana lives in West Palm Beach, FL.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments x

Introduction: What's Happening to My Life? 1

My Story 5

What You Can Expect from This Book 6

1 Examining Our Issues 8

Prompts to Start Planning 11

Responses from the Group 13

2 Organizing Answers and Choosing Discussion Topics 30

Category A Things I Want to Say but Don't Expect a Response To 32

Category B Things I Want to Say but Won't, Because It Won't Make a Difference 33

Category C Things I Want to Say but Should Only Share with a Friend 35

Category D Things I Really Need to Talk About, Know About, Have Resolved, or Make a Decision About 37

3 Communication Tools 101 (or Shall I Say, 9-1-1) 41

Keep Your Viewpoint While Your Husband and Others Keep Theirs, Yet Still Get What You Want 42

Change a Person's Behavior, Whether or Not They Change Their Opinion 43

Changing Your Behavior May Make It Unnecessary for Other People to Change Theirs 44

Encouraging Your Husband to Say More 45

Pitfalls to Avoid 46

Speaking His Language 47

Summary of Communication Tools 47

4 Talk Your Way to Understandings 49

What If He Refuses to Meet? 52

What If I Refuse to Meet? 53

The Setting for Your Discussion 54

Preparing for the Discussion 55

The Discussion 57

Closing the Discussion and Creating Understandings 58

Sample Understandings 60

5 Comprehending Our Emotions-Life in the Guilt Factory 69

The Big C 72

Emotional Fine-Line Issues 76

The Stress of Living Grief 87

Sometimes Our Emotions Surprise Us 88

I'm So Tired of Being the "Man"! 89

Emotions and Words 89

My Way Versus His Way 90

Ultimately It Is His Disease 93

6 Practical Issues 96

Practical Fine-Line Issues 97

7 Social and Familial issues 128

Whose Business Is It, Anyway? 129

Everyone Has an Opinion 132

The Hottest Button 133

When Someone Asks 135

Public Face with Private Pain 137

Visitors and Privacy 141

Ceremonies and Services 146

8 Self-Care 151

Manufacture Time 156

Stop Energy Drains 157

The Delicate Topics-Love, Sex, Intimacy, and Affairs 157

Staying Awake When Trauma Becomes Normal 160

"Sometimes a Cigar Is Just a Cigar" 161

Health Lessons I Learned from My Husband 161

9 50 Do's and Don'ts 163

10 Decisions, Transitions, and Discoveries 169

Resources 175

Index 189

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