The plan was to grow old together – holding hands, in rocking chairs on the porch and enjoying the grand-kids. For many couples, this part of the dream has not quite come true. For those who have found themselves in the all too common position of being a caregiver to their spouse – the story has changed.
Over 56% of the 50 million family caregivers are caregivers for a spouse, according to the National Family Caregivers Association. This shift in the relationship can be difficult and many spouses find themselves unsure of how to deal with the challenges that come with the new role.
The Challenge of Loneliness While Being a Caregiver to Your Spouse
There is a big difference between being lonely and being alone. Many spouse caregivers talk about the loneliness of being a caregiver – even, or perhaps especially, when their spouse is right there with them. When the person you married is no longer able to be as present in the relationship – the loneliness can feel worse than if they were not there at all. Often there is a sense of resentment and anger that they did not hold up their end of the bargain.
The Impact of Resentment while Being a Caregiver to Your Spouse
How do you prevent this from impacting the care you provide? How do you maintain the marriage while having to shift your role? One of the most important things to do is take care of yourself. Stress and burnout have a significant impact on family caregivers, and that stress can impact the care you provide. By allowing others to help, having an understanding that you should not do this alone, and taking regular breaks from your role – you allow yourself to be in a better place when you are providing the direct care.
Consider giving up the tasks that are the most taxing or perhaps cause the most stress on your relationship. Having a paid caregiver do the bathing, incontinence care and feeding for example, can allow you to get back to being in a marriage with your partner – focusing on sharing, visiting or just being together. Try to allow yourself to time to just “be” with your partner – not always focusing on what you need to “do”.
Are you a caregiver to your spouse? Please share your experience and stories here, as we all learn from each other…