12 Tips for Spousal Caregivers
Carol Bradley Bursack, Minding Our Elders | Jan 16th 2015 Feb 22nd 2017
While family members who provide care for loved ones share many issues, there’s a different emotional dynamic between caregiver and care receiver when the care partners are spouses than when they are an adult child caring for a parent. Here, we offer some tips for spouses.
Giving one another personal space is important to many marriages. This doesn’t change when one spouse has health issues that must be addressed by the well spouse.
The well spouse needs to be careful not to demean or infantilize the ill spouse while providing care. Mutual respect that keeps marriages healthy must stay intact.
Humor is essential to maintain a good relationship. Remember the good times to help each other through these difficult times.
When care receiver is having a bad day the caregiver may have to change plans. However, a caregiver needs to be firm that he or she needs a life outside of caregiving.
Talk to others
Loneliness is an enormous part of being a spousal caregiver. You’ve lost a great deal of your partner who may have been your go-to person when you needed support. Now you may feel alone.
Realize that you aren’t abandoning your spouse if you join an exercise class, see an art exhibit with a friend that your spouse would once have enjoyed or go out to lunch. Bring home your stories to enrich your communication with your spouse.
Understand that you must stay healthy in order to be a good caregiver. That means taking care of your own health issues, which may be significant if you and your spouse are seniors.
Mentally and physically
Mental health is as important as physical health. Meditate, read, go to church, see a counselor, attend in-person or online support groups. Do what you need to do to stay emotionally healthy.
Stay in touch
Keep up friendships. Yes, some will fall by the wayside, but if you and your friends accept that things are different, some friendships can remain fulfilling.
Help your spouse understand that other people can refresh your relationship. See if a friend of your spouse’s can spend some time with him or her while you go out. Then swap stories with your spouse when you return.
But don’t smother your spouse. He or she may be ill and/or in chronic pain. However, once you’ve done what you can, try to enjoy each other as people, not patient and nurse.
Use your voice
Become an activist for the disease that has claimed your spouse’s health. By doing so, you’ll meet others with the same issues with whom you can bond. This interaction should be good for both you and your spouse.