Today, approximately 65 million Americans provide at least 20 hours a week of care for a chronically ill, disabled, or aging parent. Almost 40% of those caregivers have either their elderly parents or children living with them. And for married or partnered caregivers, nurturing a healthy relationship can often take a backseat to the needs of an elderly loved one. However, partners in a caregiver role must make time to check-in, stay connected, and maintain a strong partnership.
Taking care of a loved one can be a rewarding time, but it comes with numerous challenges. When you’re seeing a parent transition from caregiver to care receiver, it’s especially easy to become overwhelmed. It doesn’t help that the task of supporting them isn’t one you come automatically prepared for! Luckily, our Caregiver Tips & Tools Guide is here to help you navigate this journey every step of the way. Learn how to create an ideal environment for them, spot Dementia warning signs, and know where to turn when it’s time to get additional help. Download your copy today →
Take these proactive steps to avoid conflict while keeping stress at a minimum:
Don’t merely 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 at feeling overlooked. Even if you have to schedule a time to talk, make it a priority.
Spend Time Together.
Nothing is more important than protecting your marriage or partnership. Resurrect Friday date night, even if it means take-out and a movie. Meet for a quick lunch date to catch up or do errands together if that’s all you can manage in a given week. But make sure you create opportunities for alone time whenever you can.
While it’s comfortable to use your spouse as a sounding board, there are going to 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 back up and coping strategies from people in similar situations.
It’s impossible to take care of other people and nurture relationships if you’re not taking care of yourself. Make time to be alone and do things that leave you feeling refreshed and recharged. Carve out regular time during the week to exercise, read a book, get a massage, or even relax in the bath.
Make the Small Moments Matter.
It’s often the simple gestures that mean the most and take the least amount of effort and planning. Try to do something small every day to let your spouse know that you’re thinking of them and that you appreciate them. Cook their favorite meal, bring home their favorite dessert, offer to do a chore that they dislike, or shower them with compliments.
While having a conversation, be sure that you’re listening to what your partner is saying and be sure to validate their feelings. Though you may find yourself wanting to fix whatever they may be struggling with, sometimes it is more productive to hear what they have to say while being empathetic.
Ask for Help.
If the demands of caregiving become unsustainable, look into resources now that you could turn to quickly if you needed to – home health aide companies, senior centers, assisted living. 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 ideas and information, visit the Family Caregiver Alliance website.