We’ve all heard the wedding vows: “…for better or worse, until death do us part.” Eventually for most seniors, there comes a time during their marriage when it’s necessary for one spouse to serve as a caregiver for the other. That caregiving partner oftentimes experiences stress and fatigue, and loneliness and depression are common. This can be especially true when their husband or wife’s illness is chronic like heart disease, Alzheimer’s or cancer. If you’re not careful as a caregiver, the marital happiness you once enjoyed can slip into feelings of duty, sadness and even resentment. When caring for an ill spouse, not feeling constantly overwhelmed requires taking several steps to ensure you’re able to provide the love and comfort your partner needs as you work together through life’s inevitable challenges.
Understand Your Limits
When serving as a spousal caregiver, you won’t be able to continue caring for an ill spouse if you get injured, become ill or disabled yourself. That’s why it’s so important to know your limitations. You’ll also want to establish boundaries and safeguard your own health and wellbeing. Here are some tips to help:
Set Reasonable Goals
If your partner has a chronic illness, no matter how hard you try you can’t cure it. Instead, focus on attainable daily goals that’ll show how much you love them and make them more comfortable.
For example, if your spouse recently had surgery set a goal of assisting them on a walk outside the house every day. Once that’s accomplished, savor the moment with one another and rest-assured that it was your caregiving that helped make it happen.
Take a Break Occasionally
Don’t let caregiver stress transition into fatigue, guilt or even full-blown burnout. Take a well-deserved break when you are starting to feel overwhelmed. We’ll cover more about this in the next section.
Ask Others for Help
Caring for an ill spouse while aging in place will typically require some outside support. But that doesn’t mean you don’t love them anymore. In fact, on the contrary it shows you’ll take any necessary steps to make them comfortable while remaining in the home you’ve shared for years. There are several ways to get that in-home assistance, including:
An Adult Child
Your grown children are probably watching your living situation from afar, and just waiting to return the love and nurturing you showed them growing up. Give them a chance by asking them to help out with tasks like grocery shopping, transportation, shopping, yardwork and housecleaning.
Friends and Neighbors
If none of your adult children live nearby, your friends and neighbors would no doubt be happy to step in and provide some assistance. Your church also has members who would eagerly provide help if asked. Swallow your pride and allow those people to lighten your workload.
Community Volunteers and Services
Your area probably has numerous senior services like Meals on Wheels, church groups, senior transportation, adult daycare and caregiver support groups. There may be activities that you’re having trouble doing any longer like driving at night or lifting heavy objects. Don’t be afraid to let these hel