For a dozen years, Larry Bocchiere, 68, didn’t find it especially difficult to care for his wife, Deborah, who struggled with breathing problems. But as her illness took a downward turn, he became overwhelmed by stress.
“I was constantly on guard for any change in her breathing. If she moved during the night, I’d jump up and see if something was wrong,” he said recently in a phone conversation. “It’s the kind of alertness to threat that a combat soldier feels. I don’t think I got a good night’s sleep for five years. I gained 150 pounds.”
As her chronic obstructive pulmonary disease worsened and heart failure set in, Deborah was taking 24 medications each day and rushing to the hospital every few weeks for emergency treatments.
“Toward the end, I couldn’t stay in the same room with her for too long because I couldn’t stand to watch her being so sick,” Bocchiere said. His wife died in 2013.
Marriages are often shaken to the core when one spouse becomes sick or disabled and the other takes on new responsibilities.
“You have to rewrite the relationship’s expectations. And the longer you’ve been married, the harder that is to do,” said Zachary White, an associate professor of communications at Queens University of Charlotte. With Donna Thomson, he’s the author of “The Unexpected Journey of Caring: The Transformation From Loved One to Caregiver.”