The first time I experienced it was when my first husband, Bill, was sick.
The first inking was a day when he was in the emergency department of our local hospital. Because we were often there in that last year, I don't remember what precipitated this visit. It wasn't the time he collapsed in Shopper's Drug Mart parking lot, or the time the visiting nurse phoned me at work. Both of those visits resulted in admissions. This time, we saw his cardiologist, who read him the riot act. He had been telling him he needed to stop working for some time, but this time there was a difference.
This time, I was there.
He said, "You need to go on disability. Right now. Today. I will sign the papers." This time he listened.
When we came home, we phoned our three children, and miraculously, they were all able to come over within the hour. We told then what was happening, and we all talked about how life was going to change for us. I remember it being a night when we all felt close to each other, and it ended with our son-in-law praying.
I remember thinking, "I can do this. Life will be different, but different isn't always bad." I didn't know that we were entering the Slippery Slope, Our "new normal" would only last a few weeks.
What does the Slippery Slope look like? In a caregiving situation, it's when your loved ones' status changes drastically. Then it changes again. Then again. As a caregiver, all your time is spent either problem solving, making difficult decisions or trying to adjust to what changes have occurred. You are pulled in every direction. Afraid. Terrified of the repercussions of the difficult choices you are making.
Sadly, the ultimate end to the Slippery Slope is that you realize every change is a step down, and there can be no recovery. The ultimate end of the Slippery Slope is death.
Since Bill's death, I have realized this was happening in other caregiver situations. Often, it is precipitated by an event such as a stroke. Increased frailty, difficulty with swallowing, skin breakdown, disinterest in food--symptoms become overwhelming until the caregiver realizes there is no returning from this slide. The end is near.
If you are a caregiver facing this, get support. Talk to your best friend, your spitiual advisor, a family member or someone who has said they will be there for you. Hopefully through your caregiving journey you have developed a network of people who are a support to you. You need them now. Lean on them, talk to them, cry and allow them to be there for you. No one should walk this journey alone.
If you are that friend or support person, realize the Slippery Slope is a numbing, overpowering experience. There are times when you can't think clearly, or make one more decision. This includes the decision to ask for help. Be there. Just show up with food, or a ride, a prayer or a listening ear. Learn when to step forward and when to hold back, but know that stepping forward is almost always the right choice.
Don't say, "If there's anything I can do…"
Just do it.