Caring for an elderly loved one is very rewarding, but there’s no denying that it can also be extremely stressful. So stressful, in fact, that full-time caregivers are at increased risk of depression and health problems. As such, it makes sense that caregiving can also seriously impact the relationship that a caregiver has with their spouse or significant other.
It’s important for caregivers to maintain balance in their life, and a big part of that is to ensure they are continuing to nurture their marriage. The partner of the caregiver plays a big role in this through supporting and understanding their significant other. The following are some tips for caregivers and their partners that may help them get through this challenging time.
1. Talk About Everything
Communication is critically important in a marriage. When it comes to caregiving, it’s important that both parties can talk to the other about what is on their mind without judgement. All subjects should be open for discussion – the good, the bad and the ugly. When talking to your partner, make sure that one party isn’t doing all the talking, and neither person is interrupting the other. Remember that listening to what the other is saying is an extremely important part of communication. In addition, after talking together, it can be useful to go over what has been said in order to avoid confusion and misinterpretation.
2. Try to Stay Positive
This may be easy to say but more difficult to put into practice when things are stressful. However, it’s important to try to stay positive, as negativity can take its toll on a relationship. Try to make a conscious effort to turn your negative thoughts into positive ones. Mindfulness exercises, counselling books, and formal therapy can all help you to stay positive, even through difficult times.
3. Don’t Blame Each Other
Pointing blame can be very destructive for a relationship. When things are difficult, it’s natural to take it out on those closest to you, and even blame them for the situation you are in. However, try to remember that your partner is not to blame for the situation. If you have taken on the responsibility of caregiving for your elderly parents, try to work with your partner as a team and discover ways that you can help each other rather than casting blame.
4. Work Together
When you got married, you promised to support each other through thick and thin. This is particularly important during difficult times, such as when you have become responsible for taking care of a family member. Both parties should be responsible for ensuring things keep ticking along, even if one party is doing more than normal to help pick up the slack while the other is caregiving. In the event that you have children, encourage them to help too. If they don’t want to actively participate in caregiving, there may be other chores that they can do. The more everyone contributes, the easier it is for the primary caregiver to focus on the task at hand.
5. Have Some Space Where Necessary
Alone time is great for gathering your thoughts and refreshing your frame of mind. You don’t have to leave the house to have some alone time. Find a quiet spot at home, such as the garden, the office, or even the bathroom (run a hot bath!) and use it as your personal retreat, where you can take some time to really take care of yourself.
6. Take Time for Each Other
While caregiving can be a full-time role, making time for each other should be a top priority. In tough times, it’s important to lean on each other and share the burden, but it’s just as important to spend time having fun together. Make some time to have a date night or take a walk together, anything that you can both enjoy doing together. If you find it difficult to take time off of caring, ask a friend or family member to take over for a couple of hours once a month. Alternatively, respite services are available from professional caregivers.
7. Have a Support Network in Place
Remember that you and your spouse are not alone when it comes to caregiving, and it’s very difficult for you both to manage everything. Your family, friends, and even neighbours are more than likely willing to help – you may just need to give them a few suggestions as to where they can be most useful. In addition, as mentioned above there are organisations and professionals that can be of assistance too. Don’t be scared to ask for help.
Caregiving is a difficult role, but it’s important to remember that there is advice and support available. Why not try attending a Brain Sparks workshop? This will arm you with advice and practical strategies to help you with some of the responsibilities that you have taken on. For more information on how we can help, don’t hesitate to get in touch.