When a Spouse Needs Care
Having an aging loved one develop a degenerative neurological disease is a tragedy, but what happens when that loved is your spouse? Words could not possibly describe the pain and fear that might engulf you, since this experience radically changes every aspect of your life. If your spouse recently received a diagnosis for Alzheimer’s or any other form of dementia, it may be helpful to know about some of the changes that will come. Knowing what to expect can help you cope with the stresses more effectively as you might be able to mentally prepare and develop resilience.
Your Role: Your role as a spouse will change. Perhaps before the diagnosis, you provided for your spouse in various ways. Maybe it was financially, maybe it was help around the house. Whatever the role you had before, you will likely have to start directing hands-on attention to your spouse as their illness progresses. You may continue to assume the previous responsibilities, but you may have to add on helping your loved one get dressed, bathe, or eat.
Mental Wellbeing: Everybody responds to stress a little differently. Some may look stress in the eyes and tackle challenges with steadfast commitment. Others may experience a “breakdown”, which may consist of being unable to control your emotions, especially sadness. Others may even avoid stress altogether by removing themselves from the situation. Whatever the case may be, these reactions are normal and do not deserve any kind of criticism. You are entitled to the way you feel. But if stressors in your life become unmanageable, it is important to seek help, either through a mental health counselor or a visit to the doctor, the latter of which can give you more direction on what to do. If you neglect your mental wellbeing, you may be at risk for developing depression or anxiety, which can have devastating impacts on other aspects of your life.
Physical Wellbeing: The stresses of caregiving—for anyone—can effect your daily schedule and routines. Having a spouse in the same home may intensify your caregiving role. It may impact any physical activity your were getting or your sleeping schedule. This may, in turn, lead to weight loss or weight gain, feeling tired, getting headaches, and exacerbate mental health illness like depression and anxiety.
Changing Family Relationships: Having a spouse with a degenerative neurological disease may alter the rhythm of family events and relationships you were used to before his or her diagnosis. There are now so many things to keep in mind, like: (1) If you choose to travel for the holidays, what kind of travel arrangements do you have to make? (2) How might interactions with friends or family members change? (3) How will you manage your role as a caregiver along with your role as a sister, aunt, cousin, or friend?
These are important considerations, and you do not have to have all of the answers immediately. Other family members or friends may be extremely understanding and empathetic to your situation. You may find people going out of their way to make accommodations for you, not because they think you’re a burden, but because they value you and your loved one.
Seek Help from Friends or Caregiving Services
Fortunately, there are plenty of resources that exist to help alleviate your burden and to encourage balance in your life. As many health experts might advise, balancing responsibilities along with obligations to yourself is key. Do not forget that is okay to ask for some help from friends or family if you want to spend time exercising or meditating. If you care for yourself and ensure your own physical and mental wellbeing, it will be a lot easier to respond to the needs of others.
Lastly, do not forget that we are here for you, too. Call ElderCare at Home to learn about how hiring a professional caregiver can lighten your load significantly. We can also refer you to affordable counseling offices for caregiver-specific advice to suit your needs. Visit our website or call us at 888-285-0093.