Marriages Affected by Caregiving

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Don’t let caregiving kill your marriage

No one needs to tell you that caregiving can be all encompassing, but if you are giving 100% of yourself to caregiving for your senior then what is left for your self-care? 

And, if you aren’t practicing self-care, it also means there isn’t care for your partner either. 

No one wins if you let caregiving cost you your relationship with your partner.

My dad was known to say, “It’s hard to remember that you set out to clean the swamp when you are knee deep in alligator sh#!” In the thick of it, it can be hard to see a way out. Implement these 5 practical ideas, beginning with self-care for you, the caregiver:

  1. Take 15 minutes just for you every day.

University professor and researcher, Francis Lewis suggests that caregivers spend (at least) 15 minutes alone everyday doing something for themselves. Doing so “creates a place for your peace and your joy”. Lewis says, “It might be shooting hoops, it might be calling up friends, it might be having a cup of tea, it may be walking around the neighborhood.” Whatever it is, treat yourself “like company.” Recharge your spirit with a time of meditation or prayer.  

2. Include your partner in caregiving decisions.

You may think that decisions only impact you since you’re the caregiver, but it’s likely that your partner is very much impacted by them too. Include them in decisions and ask for their practical help and if they say “no” respect that. You need your “no” respected too.

3. Be purposeful about scheduling regular time with your partner.

Once you’ve scheduled time, honor that time by showing up and being fully present, giving your  partner more than just your “leftovers”. Let it be a balanced time of listening and sharing, away from your caregiving role. 

4. Show appreciation to your partner. Regularly and sincerely.

Your senior may not be expressing their appreciation to you or for you which may make you feel like hoarding your appreciation words, as though you can keep them for yourself. Be generous about expressing gratitude for your partner, to your partner. Let them catch you praising them in front of others.

5. Connect with a caregiving community.

Investing time in a supportive community group that understands the day to day challenges of caregiving is invaluable. An outlet for your own caregiver feelings and challenges provides you support without your partner having to hold the full weight of that need. I’ve gathered a list of my favorite groups on Facebook and Reddit.  

Are you unable to see how to care for yourself? Are you experiencing the following challenges?

  • Ignoring own health problems 
  • Not eating a healthy diet for lack of time 
  • Overusing tobacco and alcohol when stressed 
  • Feeling resentful toward the older adult in your care 
  • Holding in feelings of anger and frustration and then being surprised by outbursts directed at the care recipient, other family members, co-workers and strangers
  • Feeling sad, down, depressed or hopeless
    Listed by Denise E. Flori, PhD, LMFT
    If these are your struggles, seek professional help from a counselor.

May you find joy in loving one another really well!

Impatient with Repeated Questions? 7 Strategies to Respond with Patience

“What am I supposed to do? What am I supposed to do now?”

Being repeatedly asked the same question by anyone, whether they are 2 or 70, is frustrating. When it means they are fading cognitively, feelings of grief get mixed into the dynamic. 

How can you respond and save your own sanity? Here are 7 practical tips:

  1. Give yourself permission to be sad about your senior’s mental decline and mourn the fact that they are no longer who they once were. It’s okay to be sad about that. It’s normal and actually loving. 
  2. Remember that your senior is asking repeated questions because of damage to their brain cells, whether it’s because of a stroke, a form of dementia, a traumatic brain injury or something else they are now cognitively disabled. They wouldn’t choose to be confused and aren’t trying to annoy you. 
  3. Look for a reason behind the questions. Are they trying to communicate something else altogether? Does the behavior happen at a particular time of the day or around particular people?
  4. Think about how they are feeling, not what they are doing or saying and respond to their emotion, not their behavior.
  5. Refocus their energy on a new activity, even if it’s just a fidget type gadget that keeps their hands busy. 
  6. When responding to them, do your best to keep your voice calm and don’t try to argue or use logic. The latter response will likely escalate their confusion by adding anxiety.
  7. Restate what they are saying and answer their question as best you can with simple explanations. Consider using visual tools like calendars, clocks or photographs to help them remember. 

This video from UCLA Health offers insights and practical tips for managing repetitive questions.

May you find joy in loving one another well.

Elizabeth Dameron-Drew is the co-founder of Ways & Wane. She walkedclosely with her own father through his years of waning. She lives near Seattle, Washington with her two teenage sons, husband and two rescue dogs. When she’s not working on this platform she’s probably creating books, sewing, or vacuuming, or cooking while listening to the rain and thinking about her next creative endeavor.