Michele's Blog

The Spousal Caregiver

By Michele Scott

Couples depend on one another, share home and family responsibilities, make major decisions together and plan a long prosperous life. Relationships, particularly marriages require the upmost form of give and take. When one becomes physically dependent on the other due to a serious or critical long-term illness the relationship can take an unexpected and often unwanted turn. Today in the United States the average caregiver is 63 years old. Many of them are caring for someone who is between 65 and 70 years of age. The psychological challenges of caring for someone equal to you financially, socially, in schooling and career can sink the patient / caregiver relationship into despair. Often “for better or worse, in sickness and in health” becomes an unexpected reality.

Women caring for spouses who supported the family financially - paying the bills, buying groceries and taking on home repairs can find themselves thrown into a state of irrepressible anxiety and uncontrollable stress. Feelings of guilt and remorse are often entrenched with growing resentment of the tasks and hostility toward the patient. Their loved one – in many cases their best friend – is no longer breadwinner, emotional supporter, or intimate partner and it is frustrating. Hearing they are not alone, reading blogs on the internet and talking to friends and family often offers little support.

“The physical and emotional demands of spousal caregiving are astronomical, but there are ways to cope; it’s a learning experience which can lead to the caregiver’s mastering new skills, discovering the more meaningful aspects of life and marriage, and a greater self-knowledge as the caregiver finds ways to extricate and express his/her own passions and talents.” Global Genes, The Spousal Caregiver: How Illness Challenges a Marriage.

Self-preservation mentally and physically is key to effective caregiving. 63% of caregivers report poor eating habits, 58% report feeling overwhelmed and angry and 70% isolate themselves – averting family, neighbors and friends; sadly 40% of caregivers develop a chronic illness themselves. Caregiving is a job thus training and preparation is needed. Home Helpers Home Care can provide education, guidance and support as the new caregiver learns the services, tasks and responsibilities confronting them on a daily basis, and ongoing mental and physical challenges.

Caregivers today have a number of organizations they can turn to for support.  Psychiatrists, counselors and therapists offer sessions specific to caregiving. Technology has made major contributions to caregiving although less than 10% are currently using it.  AARP reports; “Technologies for scheduling, organizing and medication refill and delivery are used most, and those used least are technologies for finding and procuring assisted living or in-home aids, or for viewing and sharing motivational content about caregiving.” We believe these number will increase as the more technically inclined generation X and millennials becomes caregivers.

The rewards of caregiving are just as numerous as the challenges. Healthy, well-informed, well-trained caregivers who maintain relationships, take breaks and seek help when needed reap the rewards and shoulder the challenges. Home Helpers Home Care offers 24/7 in-home care. Call us.