The Different Types of Family Caregivers: Spousal Caregiver
When you and your silver-haired sweetie took your marriage vows, however many years ago, you said things like “in sickness and in health.” Flash forward a couple decades later and one of you is in the position of being a caretaker for the other. It may not be the romantic notion you had when you got hitched, but it’s your reality—and you are not alone. Approximately 6 million U.S. spousal caregivers offer in-home care to their ill, disabled, or aging spouses. These spouses are lucky to have such devoted companions and caretakers. However, there can be a cost to the caretaker. There’s no need to be a martyr, if you are the caretaker. It’s okay to acknowledge that you are stressed, tired, anxious, depressed, susceptible to headaches and backaches. You may even be concerned that YOU are heading toward caretaker burnout and will be drained mentally, emotionally and physically.
So how to find some more balance in this changing dynamic so that you don’t go down the tubes fast? One thing is you have to start getting comfortable with delegating tasks to others, either family members like those wonderful adult children you have or vibrant adult siblings that either of you have or hired helpers. To line up reliable help, look into home healthcare options. Obviously, we are touting Granny Nannies here!
Ditch the guilt trip and stay involved with your loved one’s care, just at a different level, that gives yourself some more time to recharge your batteries and protect your mental and physical health. When you take a break, use that time wisely. Listen to your body. Does it need a nap or a workout? Or do you need to meet your best friend for dinner to vent? Are you craving cuddle time with your new grandbaby?
When you have help in place, be sure to keep your spouse involved in his/her care decisions as much as possible.
If your ailing spouse is worried about the cost of professional help, you can get creative and ask your adult children to pitch in—or reach out to your local religious organization or civic group that you and your spouse have been engaged with historically. “It takes a village” doesn’t just refer to child-rearing, after all!