Being rude when ill

I’ve never looked after someone who is ill for any extended period before, and am now looking after a friend. She at times now gets very, very rude (e.g. personal attacks). However, she says that she has spent a lot of time looking after people, they all got very rude and that people have a lot of leeway when they’re ill.

I find this very tough to deal with as I’m not rude to people when I’m ill, least of all to those looking after me.
Do people get rude when they’re ill? How much leeway should you give them? What do you think the limits are, if any?

anti-depressants may help her.
illness can trigger depression, the idea is that the brain is in a “go hermit” mode …

I’d be inclined to tell her to fuck off. Being ill doesn’t make you rude, being a dick does.

In my experience, being ill sort of amplifies character traits. I have cared for every kind of person, from the downright mean to the sweetest ever. I think the mean ones were always mean, and the sweet ones just become more humble.

I am a naturally bitchy person, but I bite back a lot unless I am spending a lot of energy on being sick. I don’t have anything left to manage the social niceties. I try not to impose myself on others when I’m like this, as it isn’t their fault I’m not Sweet Susie Cupcakes.

I’m sorry you’re having to see your friend like this, but she doesn’t seem very sorry about it. I can’t imagine saying to anyone that I have a license to be rude , and btw get in here and wait on me hand and foot. And try to be pleasant while you’re doing it.

Are you sure she was nice before? In all seriousness, I would set some limits such as removing myself from her company when she starts these ‘attacks’.

Well, pain can cause grouchiness, sometimes even violence, and so can oxygen deprivation. But I would expect the person to be apologetic once they’re capable of talking, so your friend should be apologising, not excusing her actions. Or does she do both?

When I was a kid, my mother told me I was a little angel when I was sick.
(She didn’t mention what I was like otherwise!)
When my parents were in their eighties, they were a delight to care for.

If your friend thinks she has the ‘right’ to be rude, then you have the ‘right’ to walk out.

My father’s jaundice affected his brain and he became much more of an arsehole than normal. Right after the operation he was dreadful!

If someone’s yelling insults at me, they can kiss my ass. Unless they’re demented or delusional or otherwise out of their minds. But even then, I’m not going to be roses and sunshine about caring for them.

But if the extent of their rudeness is them forgetting to say “please” and “thank you”, then they’ll get a pass. If I’m close enough to them that I’m caring for them while they’re on their sickbed, that means that we’ve long abandoned rules of etiquette.

Actually, it would be helpful if you clarified what you meant by personal attacks. Is it along the lines of “fuck you, you bitch!” when she’s in pain, or some more sustained personal attack that would only pertain to you? And does she have dementia or anything similar? Either way, if she’s capable of being lucid enough to justify her actions then she’s also capable of apologising for them.

Good point! Decent people regret their rudeness; they don’t revel in it.

I agree. I think general crankiness and lack of politeness can be understandable or excused while someone is sick, since they might not have the energy for usual social interactions. But outright hostility or rudeness gets less of a pass, and should be apologized for.

I’ll agree, but just speaking for myself, during some recent kidney stone issues where I was hurting so bad I couldn’t see straight, I still made every effort to be civil to those around me. Especially the medical personnel. Personal rule: don’t piss off the people who dispense the pain meds.

I had major surgery recently. My husband says even while I was barely out of the anesthesia and was still groggily thanking everyone for taking care of me.

I took care of a friend after she had hemmorhoid surgery, and a couple of times, she started shouting at me. I stopped what I was doing, put everything down, and explained to her that she did not get to shout at me. The second time, I followed that by saying that if she shouted at me again, she was on her own. She broke down in tears and admitted - to herself as much as to me - that she was really, really in pain, so I told her that I would call her doctor’s office and get her more pain meds, get the prescription filled, and bring it to her, and do everything I could to help her with the pain. So long as she understood that she did not get to shout at me. It worked out.

On the other hand, when I had my tonsils out at the age of 32, there was a point when I was due to take my pain meds, I was in a whole lot of pain, and my dad was between me and the bottle of liquid hydrocodone (the bottle was on the kitchen counter, and it was a one butt kitchen). I asked (it fucking hurt to talk), but he brushed me off because he was making dinner. I asked again (ready to cry), and he started a rant. I promptly had a crying, screaming meltdown. Mom came running, Dad took a walk, and I was given my pain meds and helped upstairs where I took a long nap. Dad and I apologized to each other after dinner.

My father now has dementia, and like many people in those circumstances, he can get as mean as a damn snake. Being sick or hurt only makes it that much worse. He fell while I was at work, and by the time I got home, he had a huge bruise on his leg, and he was in pain. I gave him half a Vicodin and took him to the ER. Of course, by the time we got their the meds had kicked in, and he wasn’t hurting and acted just as mild as milk, so the staff doctor stuck him at the end of the line. Four hours later, the pain was back, and he took it out on me, snapping and snarling.

Some people are never taught how to behave when they are in pain and need help. Some people know how, but are at their limits or beyond them. Some people have neither the knowledge or the ability to cope. And, I suppose, some people just don’t give a damn.

This is something I’ve actually thought a lot about in the last couple of years, as I’ve been battling a serious illness of my own, and spent a lot of time with other sick people. My personal opinion is that, while everyone should get a little leeway when they’re in pain or sick, some people use it as an excuse to be dicks. Those people were always dicks, but now they get carte blanche to be dicks by people who are afraid to say no to a sick person.

Don’t get me wrong. Severe illness brings out the worst in you. In addition to the actual sickness, it’s stressful, often lonely, often frustrating, and just overall difficult. Every little thing you want to do, you either can’t do, or you need help to do, or it hurts to do. Think of everything you need to do in a day – even in a hospital or staying home and bed – and everything hurts or makes you sick. Anyone would snap eventually. It’s statistically shown to cause depression (heck, my insurance company kept having a nurse call me, and the bulk of those conversations were questions about self-harm and depression – it’s a huge problem!) But at the same time, illness doesn’t take away your empathy for other people, if you have it. After you snap, you apologize. If you are depressed, you need to seek out treatment and be responsible for your behavior.

Being very ill did make me, emotionally, into a very different person. I’m not normally the kind of person who seeks out someone for emotional support all the time. I’m normally stable, mellow, and mature. I handled difficult situations pretty well. I’m low drama. But, when I was really sick, I was a goddamn mess. I cried over the drop of a hat. I cried almost every day, mostly to myself. I was sad sometimes, but mostly I was scared, and I was really, really, really frustrated with the situation. I regret bursting into tears with medical workers and things like that. I needed pep talks and a lot of outside support for the first time, and my mom had to intervene to help me on several occasions when I just became inconsolable.

All that said, I don’t think I ever treated anyone cruelly. I wasn’t rude, that I can remember, and I did an awful lot of apologizing (probably too much) to everyone. Honestly, one of the hardest things was knowing how my illness was affecting other people, and I was terribly afraid of making it worse, because I’d heard stories of other family members becoming terrors when they got sick. I tried very hard to be appreciative and thankful. When I got emotional inappropriately (crying), I’d apologize and try to explain myself. I didn’t tell people just to deal with it because that’s how sick people are.

I stayed in a nursing home for a few months and I didn’t see a strong correlation between illness/pain and rudeness. It seemed like some sick people and some not-so-sick people were really rude and mean all the time, and some sick people and not-so-sick people were mostly fine and pleasant to deal with. The guy who seemed the sickest – a younger guy, incredibly frail, looked like he’d lost a lot of weight, could barely move and seemed badly in pain – he and his wife were so sweet and kind to one another, I found it very inspiring. They were so loving and nice, it actually was very comforting to me to watch every day (the phys therapy rooms usually had lots of patients in at once so you got to see a lot of other people). The surliest woman was just there because she had gotten a knee replacement and none of her family members would take her in for a few weeks. After spending some time with her, I couldn’t blame them.

I got to talking with a lot of the staff at the hospital and the home, and they definitely seemed to notice the same thing. Some people just wanted any kind of attention, including negative attention. They’d page the staff members over and over again and would complain bitterly (and officially) when they were treated like patients rather than god-kings, and when other patients who had more urgent needs were prioritized (e.g. bedridden guy needs to use the toilet is a little more important than staying more than 15 minutes to hear more about how the tea is always cold). These people often intentionally undermined their treatment, too – they wouldn’t participate in therapy, they’d ignore doctor’s orders, they’d just generally be jerks and expect people to take care of them forever. They were only ‘happy’ being unhappy, and making others unhappy. My conclusion was pretty much that some people are just assholes and being sick just magnifies that tendency.

Excluding brain-affecting diseases/injuries and dementia and the like where the person really doesn’t know any better, personal attacks are NEVER okay, and even if they happen in an absolutely awful moment (e.g. you do something accidental that causes extreme, sudden pain) then they should apologize, not make excuses that all sick people are rude. They aren’t. It’s an excuse. Certainly, I think a sick person should get an extra benefit of the doubt for things that happen in the meat of the moment. That said, being sick doesn’t suddenly make you forget that other people have feelings – if anything, it should make you even more acutely aware of them, as you become dependent on others you can’t help but realize the effect you have on their lives.

I think you need to talk to your friend about what is going to be acceptable. If she can’t handle her illness without being that nasty to you, then maybe she needs to find someone else, or hire a caregiver herself.

Cranky, crabby, lack of patience, are all understandable reactions to pain. Yelling, personal attacks, throwing things, are just the person being an asshole. I reply accordingly.