Caring for a Spouse: Staying Close Through Changing Dynamics
When a spouse or partner is diagnosed with a chronic disease, the dynamics within your home can change dramatically. Suddenly, you must navigate the transition from the role of a partner into the unfamiliar territory of being a caregiver.
“Caring for a spouse with a chronic illness or progressive disease such as Alzheimer’s requires establishing a ‘new normal,’” explains Kimberly Braswell, Director of Sales and Marketing at Stuart Lodge in Stuart, FL. “Not only might you experience intense role reversals, taking on more responsibilities with regards to your loved one’s care and household tasks, but you are sure to experience difficult emotional struggles as well.
“A husband whose wife always handled their financial matters could feel lost and overwhelmed renewing their auto insurance, yet has no choice as Alzheimer’s has taken away his wife’s abilities. And the wife who always relied on her husband for encouragement may feel disheartened when his illness takes away his own strength and resiliency.
“No matter what the circumstances, caring for an ailing spouse is challenging. The best thing you can do as a caregiver is to educate yourself on their condition and work hard to keep your emotional connection strong.”
Emotional Struggles: You’re Not Alone
As you go through your caregiving journey, you’re likely to experience a full range of physical, financial and emotional difficulties. Especially for those whose spouse is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s or another progressive illness, many caregivers go through stages of grief as parts of their spouse’s personality get lost. Additionally, you might struggle with guilt, fear, frustration, anxiety, isolation and fatigue or other physical conditions. These emotions are normal for your situation. It’s important to remind yourself in difficult times that you’re doing the best you can and that you aren’t alone.
Staying Emotionally Close Through Tough Times
According to geriatrics specialist Leslie Kernisan, MD, MPH, creator of the website Better Health While Aging, the best way to combat the difficult feelings that accompany caring for a spouse is to maintain an emotional connection. While so many things are out of your control when your spouse is ill, your relationship is one area where you still have a strong influence.
Dr. Kernisan says that maintaining a close emotional connection with your spouse can do wonders for your situation by reducing stress for both of you. In turn, stress relief:
- Allows the body to heal
- Increases cognitive function
- Eases the burdens of caregiving
- Helps caregivers maintain good health
Most importantly, keeping an emotional connection with your spouse and spending quality time together helps both of you cope with the difficulties of chronic illness and caregiving.
Ways to Keep Your Connection Strong
Understandably, keeping a strong emotional connection is often difficult in the midst of poor health, stress and fatigue. However, there are several things you and your spouse can focus on in order to enhance your relationship. The article “7 Ways to Keep Your Relationship Strong Despite a Chronic Illness” by Karen Bruno lists suggestions for couples dealing with a chronic illness to relieve the stress and strain their situation creates.
To learn how to cope with the burdens that caregiving has put on your relationship with your spouse, try the following suggestions:
- Communicate – When you don’t share the concerns, fears and hopes that you experience, you and your spouse can become isolated from each other. Communication is important not just for emotional intimacy, but for helping you provide the best care, too. Encourage your spouse to communicate how you can help them even better.
- Relieve Stress – The best technique for relieving stress is recognizing the cause of your stress, then finding strategies to reduce its effects. Accept that your relationship may never be the way it used to, and educate yourself on your spouse’s condition to gain a sense of control. Find resources for support, such as counseling, support groups, family and friends.
- Take Care of Yourself – Staying in good health is vital to being a good caregiver for your spouse. Try to eat well, get enough sleep and exercise and take time to do the things that give you joy. Your mental health is just as important as your physical health.
- Strengthen Social Connections – With any relationship, it’s healthy to interact regularly with people other than your partner. Although a chronic illness can be isolating, making an effort to spend time with friends and family members pays off in the emotional support and stimulation socializing brings.
- Address Financial Strains – Long-term medical conditions are costly and can create financial strain as time goes on. It’s wise to meet with a financial planner after your spouse is diagnosed to start making plans for paying for future care. If your spouse was the one who normally handled the finances, have them help you (as best they can) gather and understand financial documents and account information.
- Find Quality Time – Plan activities and outings that you and your spouse can do together. Even though they may not be able to do all the things they used to, view this as an opportunity to try new things. Take them on dates, start a new hobby together or simply take time to relax in each other’s company.
- Cherish Each Other – Above all, remind yourself of your love for your spouse. Working together for the sake of your spouse’s health can make the two of you a team. Enjoy the time that you can spend together and focus on the positive things you still have.
Helping You Find the Support You Need
“At Stuart Lodge, we offer a wide array of services to help caregivers and their loved ones,” says Braswell. “In addition to Respite Care services, we host regular educational events to help caregivers connect to important resources, learn new techniques and cope with the stress of full-time caregiving.
“If a loved one’s condition ever becomes too much to bear on your own, Stuart Lodge provides high quality Assisted Living in our comprehensive community. Our trained professionals are on hand 24 hours a day to help our residents with daily living tasks, as well as assist them in enjoying full, vibrant days.
“If you’d like to learn more about the services we offer at our community, please give us a call or visit our website today!”
Come Flourish at Stuart Lodge!
Located on the Treasure Coast, Stuart Lodge offers Assisted Living services within the serene beauty of an Atlantic Coastal Lodge in the picturesque town of Stuart. We provide an environment of socialization and volunteerism, as well as dependable health care services that promote independence, self-direction, social connections and daily purpose.
The Lodge lifestyle is a unique approach to senior living. While aging does come with challenges, our culture of connections creates an environment for residents to find daily purpose and joy. Here, residents don’t lose their independence. Instead, they receive countless avenues through which to connect with others through social activities or volunteer opportunities. We believe that everyone has something to contribute to their community, and we consider it our mission to help residents find what they can give – their skills, talents, company and enthusiasm.
Residents in our Assisted Living community experience personalized, comprehensive healthcare services from dedicated, experienced professionals and staff. Each resident works with us to create their own Personal Care Plan, designed specifically for them to enjoy optimal independence while receiving the quality care they require.
We invite you to learn more about the fulfilling lifestyle and serves available at Stuart Lodge. Contact us today!