For many elderly married couples, the phrase “in sickness and in health” rings true every year as one spouse takes care of the other. And although caring for an aging spouse is a labor of love, it can be mentally, physically and emotionally draining. Caregiver stress is common, which can put a strain on a couple’s relationship and place their freedom and independence at risk. Thankfully, as a spousal caregiver there are several proven ways to manage your own health while caring for your partner. 

Signs of Caregiver Stress

Although serving as a caregiver at any age is challenging, the aging process makes it even more difficult. To help prevent caregiver stress watch for these warning signs:

  • Feeling overwhelmed or constantly worried
  • Feeling tired throughout the day
  • Getting too much sleep or not enough sleep
  • Rapid weight loss or gain
  • Becoming easily irritated or angry
  • Losing interest in activities once enjoyed
  • Feeling sad
  • Experiencing frequent headaches, bodily pain or other physical problems
  • Abusing alcohol or drugs, including prescription medications

Poor eating habits, not enough sleep and a lack of physical activity can all exacerbate the effects of caregiver stress. Eventually, that pent-up stress can cause serious health problems like heart disease, anxiety, depression and diabetes.

Self-Care Tips for Spousal Caregivers 

Staying refreshed as a spousal caregiver is possible when taking these steps:

Ask your spouse to help

An imbalanced relationship isn’t healthy for either party. If there are daily tasks that your spouse can assist with, like paying bills or doing laundry, ask them to help. Working as a team will ultimately bring you closer together and prevent caregiver burnout.

If they can’t physically participate, expressing gratitude for their efforts from time-to-time will help create a more positive home environment.

Involve family members  

Don’t feel obligated to provide all the care your loved one needs. Starting with your kids, ask family members to help-out, giving you a chance to refocus attention on your own physical and emotional needs. Preparing meals, doing housework or transporting your spouse to medical appointments will allow you to catch up on other responsibilities or simply decompress.

If you don’t have any relatives nearby, other sources of relief may include community volunteers, meal delivery services or trusted neighbors.

Be patient

Depending on what’s ailing them, your spouse may experience negative emotions like anger, agitation and confusion. If they have dementia or Alzheimer’s, their behavior could become aggressive or irrational. There will be times when you’ll need to show more patience than you have in the past.

Identify your triggers 

Identifying triggers can help prevent confrontations with your spouse. Once you recognize those stressors, you’ll be able to develop healthy ways to address them rather than engaging in