It makes sense that, as the senior population numbers climb, so does the percentage of people providing care for senior parents or relatives. More than 65 million Americans provide at least twenty hours a week of care for a chronically ill, disabled, or aging parent. Almost 40% of those caregivers have either their senior parents or children living with them. For those who are married or partnered, caregiving responsibilities are compounded by the demands of nurturing a healthy relationship.
While the needs of a senior loved one can seem paramount over those of a younger, healthy spouse, it’s still so important for caregivers to try and carve out time for themselves and their partner to check in and stay connected. Here are some practical ways to address these conflicting responsibilities while keeping stress at a minimum:
Communication is Key
It can be easy to rely on your relationship history to get you through a rough patch, but according to relationship experts, this tactic is shortsighted and potentially harmful. Don’t simply expect your partner to intuit what you’re thinking or read between the lines. It’s important to share what’s stressing you out. Partners and spouses of caregivers can have their own frustrations from feeling overlooked or missing time together that’s been pushed aside. Even if you must schedule a time to talk, make it a priority.
Set Realistic Expectations
Be realistic about what your partner can relate to and empathize with. While it’s important to have them as a sounding board, there will be times when they can’t fully share in your struggles. Try to resist the destructive urge to blame or feel resentful. Instead, consider joining an online community or support group for backup and coping strategies from people in similar situations.
Make Time for Each Other
The needs of a sick parent or senior person can sometimes seem to trump almost anything else, but protecting your marriage or partnership is essential. Resurrect Friday date night, even if it means take-out and a movie. Meet for a quick lunch date to catch up or run errands together. Make sure you create opportunities for alone time to protect this sacred relationship.
Have a Plan B
We’ve seen cases where caregiving demands become unsustainable for many reasons, ranging from the financial to the personal. Look into resources now that you could turn to quickly if you needed to – home health aide companies, respite care, senior centers, and assisted living communities. Or you may have siblings or relatives living nearby who could take over for you, either temporarily or permanently. Talk to them now, when you have the time to lay out responsibilities and expectations, so that you have someone ready to call on.
For more information and a list of helpful resources, head to Caring.com.