Illness can alter a marital relationship, roles and expectations, sometimes without warning. The dynamic in a household can change suddenly from that of an equal partnership to one person having to do the lion’s share of tasks as well as manage complex personal care and medical needs of another person. Shifting from a spouse to a predominantly caregiver role can affect you physically, socially and emotionally.
Spousal caregivers face unique situations that have their own challenges that are different from other caregivers. A marriage is unlike any other relationship and a spouse is a partner, friend, confidante and lover for most. But when your spouse become ill, what happens to you? How do you manage these changes in your life when almost everything is turned upside down?
Here are 10 tips for survival:
Acknowledge your emotions and accept that all emotions including anger, sadness, frustration, loneliness and guilt are completely normal. Seek help from a professional if you’re having difficulty coping.
Find a support group for spousal caregivers where you can vent openly and safely about your situation with others who are in the same boat.
Take care of your physical health. It’s easy to cancel your own doctor’s appointments because there aren’t enough hours in the day but that can be very detrimental to your health in the long run. Be sure to make time for your own self-care to avoid caregiver burnout.
Maintain friendships and a network of people. It’s important to socialize as much as possible and to not become isolated due to your caregiving role. Be sure to include respite time for yourself on a regular basis. Plan outings that you enjoy at least once a week.
Establish reasonable expectations. You shouldn’t try to care for your spouse by yourself. Brainstorm a list of people who can help you – adult children, grandchildren, nieces or nephews, cousins, friends, neighbors. Think about each person’s strengths and ask if they can help care for your loved one. Be specific with how they can contribute.
Focus on your spouse’s remaining abilities – what can they still do? Involve them in meaningful activities so they feel a sense of purpose and include them in decision making as much as possible.
Keep a list of tasks you need help with, so you’re always prepared if a friend or neighbor volunteers to help out of the blue. Accept all offers and don’t be shy about telling them exactly what you need.
Investigate community resources. Are there adult day programs nearby? Many programs offer a caregiver support group at the same time so you can attend the group knowing your loved one is cared for and engaged in activities with other people.
Continue to spend time together as a couple as much as possible. Did you always enjoy going to the movies or playing cards after dinner? Try to include some normalcy of the life you enjoyed before your spouse became ill, even if you need to modify an outing or go out for a shorter time.
Maintain a routine. It will likely be a new routine from what you used to have but keeping a daily schedule that includes time for pleasurable activities can help maintain a sense of control and calm over your day.
If your spouse is dealing with a long-term illness or a disability and you could use some help, Takacs McGinnis may be able to assist. Just give us a call.