EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

January 20, 2013

Wife upset over friends' behavior toward husband

Roseanne DiStefano
Elder Q&A

---- — Q: In just a few months my husband has gone from being totally independent to a semi-invalid. The reaction of a few of his friends has really been hurtful. Some people treat him as if nothing has happened but two men rarely come to see him and when they do it’s as if they can’t wait to leave. Do I ignore this or speak to them about it? I am hurt by their attitude and don’t want my husband to be treated this way.

A: There are most likely a lot of people who will find your story all too familiar; countless individuals have experienced the loss of companionship after a serious illness or disability. I also understand that this is the point in your life when you really would like the support of your friends. Illness and disability can be scary for those who don’t have experience with anything of the sort.

While there may not be excuses for your husband’s friends there are definitely many reasons for their behavior. It is difficult to observe a loved one in such a different state than their once vital and independent ways, so emotions often cloud how someone will react around the person. Guilt is another reason a person might distance themselves; as they find themselves doing just fine when misfortune has fallen on another. Those individuals may be uncomfortable not knowing what to talk about or how to remain a friend when the situation has changed so much.

Your letter didn’t mention whether or not your husband has noticed the reaction of these particular men. If he has not made a comment it might be best not to discuss this with him directly.

In regards to confronting your husband’s friends I would recommend a soft approach, perhaps mentioning that your husband misses them and it would be nice if they could stop by more often. They may not be aware of how they are reacting. Ultimately, how you deal with the friends is going to be a decision only you can make.

In the meantime, there are support groups and family caregiver support resources for you to utilize. Many times it is a good place to connect with others dealing with the same or similar situations. At this moment both you and your husband both need to readjust to a new way of life and so do those around you. If you wait the situation may improve. These men may need time to adjust to your husband’s condition. If the lack of support and coldness continues then you have to decide if talking with them will make a difference in their behavior or if it is just going to be your chance to voice your disapproval of them. This could create even more tension so be very careful how your respond.

Do you have a question? Contact ro@esmv.org Elder Services of the Merrimack Valley, Inc. 360 Merrimack Street B#5 Lawrence, MA 01843.