DO use a pain scale to help your partner to express their level of pain. Have them make a list of what they need, on any given day, based on their pain level. Below is an example. Sit down together and write a scale that suits your situation.
0-3: I don’t need much help today, and I will ask if I do. We can go and do things together. You may need to let me set the pace, as usual. I will do my exercises today without much difficulty.
4-6: Not feeling great today. I will be asking for help. I may need you to hang around, at least for part of the day, in case I need you. I need your understanding, for sure. I will try to do what I can, but if I overdo, I will be much worse later. I will do only a portion of my exercies, if any. I may need help with dinner and the kids.
7-9: I won’t be doing anything today. I need a great deal of understanding and support. I will need pain medications, likely. I will be focusing on self care. You will need to do all household chores, including dinner. You will need to do everything with the household, kids and pets. I will be trying to make the pain better in any way that is open to me, but I need you there to help.
10: My preventative measures and pain medications didn’t work. I will need you to completely take care of everything: kids, household, pets, chores, meals. I will need to see my physician, soon, and you will need to be with me and do all the talking. I am in despair and completely lost. Most of all, I need you to take care of me, completely, and be there for me, totally. I feel guilty and horrible about needing you so much, but there is no way around it right now.
DON’T assume your partner feels well just because they are not complaining. People with pain become stoic about pain over time. Plus they don’t want to burden others with their complaints. Ask them how they are feeling, and remind them to be honest.
DO offer to go to doctor’s appointments at the pain clinic. Pain itself can cloud a
person’s thinking, and so do many pain medications. It is helpful to have an advocate when you are suffering and you have only 15 minutes to get your needs met and your voice heard.
DON’T minimize their pain. If they say they are having a bad pain day, take their word for it. People who have pain every day tend to become stoic about it. Plus, they try to hide it because they don’t want to burden others, or they feel guilty because of the trouble it causes. Help when you can, ask them what their needs are.
DO remind your partner to ask for help when they need it. Remind them that needing help is expected in this situation, and they shouldn’t be ashamed of needing to ask for help at times.
DON’T focus only on their needs. You have needs too: to do your job, to get out of the house and away from the situation, to see your friends, for peaceful rest. The kids need attention too, and they can feel negelcted if all the attention is focused on the person who needs help. This tip benefits both of you, because if you are burned out, you cannot be there for anyone.
DO get help if you are being spread too thin. If you are feeling exhausted, things aren’t getting done, the kids aren’t getting the attention they need, ask for help. Even a little bit of relief can make a big difference. Ask for help from family and friends, your church, or hire help if it is within your means. Take a walk in the woods, and listen to the birds.