Wednesday, October 8, 2008

For Whom the Bell Tolls

This isn't supposed to be the "Blog of the Mad Fulltime Caregiver," I just can't escape the fact that so much of my life these days is about this process. I have learned tricks involving lifting limp bodies, protecting limbs during myoclonic spasms, managing up to a dozen prescription drugs simultaneously, feeding, cleaning and clothing an adult, etc. Tell you what though, I'll steer clear of that as much as I can.

I started thinking about what it's like to be on the other side, the recipient. Not just being sick, we've all been there; I'm talking about what a person thinks about when they don't know when or if they will recover from mental or physical ill health. Helplessness, hopelessness, courage, resolve, etc. There must be hundreds of books about both sides of this dilemma. I haven't read any of them. I suspect many people transition into these roles so gradually that only later do they think about support groups and self-help books. Trust me, after 5 months I'm thinking about them.

In the meantime, I have observed what may be obvious to many, but hit home to me only recently.

First, a test question. Have you ever noticed an abandoned shopping cart or basket in a store, and wondered why someone would do that? You might think the person just changed their mind about shopping and left mid-aisle, although this would seem an odd circumstance to most of us. Store managers would tell you it's a common ploy of shoplifters, and that's true. But there's a third possibility, and I've seen it for myself--the person may have had a panic attack and ran home.

This is a fairly recent insight, but not the most recent. People who find they can't go out or stay out for long have to create their own world. I think QVC, HSN and SNBC are safe harbors and surrogate families for the lonely, the agorophobic, the shut-in. My wife keeps the TV glued to QVC, occasionally HSN, and she likes to fall asleep to it. It drives me absolutely nuts. To me it's endless prattle about the most minute detail of largely uninteresting retail items. Unless they are promoting something unusual, you're going to find a better deal on the internet. The thing is, they are peddling much more.

The men on these shows are amiable, non-threatening, best guy in the world types. The women are the same, and though many are glamorous, ego and self-importance are not evident. Models are sometimes gorgeous, but equally as many are more plain, and many are plus-sized. The gamut of happy family archetypes is present, sans kids for the most part. And there are call-ins, supposedly testimonials for the products but often friendly exchanges and compliments. Some of these people (maybe most) are multiple repeat customers, actually admitting they have more than one of the sold items.

This symbiotic relationship is evolutionary. I don't think they started out targetting homebodies, but clearly they have identified their demographic and have fine-tuned the process. I originally found this distasteful, but later, thought it was a pretty fair deal. See, much as I hate being tied to the house as a caregiver I still have the ability, if not the opportunity, to leave. Since there are those who have neither, they can at least tune in to watch people who are friendly and available and have cultivated themselves to appeal to you. And nobody makes you pick up the phone and buy something, that's still optional.

In my house, 50% of that stuff gets sent back anyway...

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