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Caring For a Spouse: How to Stay Healthy

By Michael Riley

Whether you are caring for your parent, a spouse, a child, another relative, or simply a lifelong friend, there are certain struggles that all family caregivers can at least identify with. Regardless of who they are caring for, many caregivers experience an emotional roller coaster of positive and negative feelings. Often this can be accompanied by physical stress or periods of anxiety mixed with moments of pure joy and an ability to power through and feel accomplished. Regardless, most caregivers often describe a deepening of the bond they share with their loved ones and an overall positive outcome. On the other hand, each situation is unique. When it comes to caring for your spouse, these caregivers experience certain challenges that are very different from others.

In this article, we will discuss several ways to stay healthy while you are caring for a spouse.

This includes physical, mental, and, most importantly, relationship health. Our goal is to provide you with some tips and tricks to help you in your caregiving journey.

Being Mindful of Your Physical Health When Caring for a Spouse

According to the Mayo Clinic, long periods of additional stress are particularly harmful to your health. Providing care to anyone can be stressful but providing care for your spouse can be even more so, especially if you are living in the environment that is causing the stress. When you are constantly in the home with your spouse, the stress is something you don’t have much of an escape from. Many factors contribute to this stress, including:

· Role Reversal – If you are the one usually being cared for, it can be difficult to swap roles

· Isolation – If you and your spouse don’t have much community support, it can be hard to find help

· Lack of Choice – due to finances or personal responsibility, some caregivers are faced with their task because it is one of the only options they have

The demands of caregiving can increase over time, so the signs of health deterioration can sneak up on spousal caregivers. Some signs that your physical health may be at risk are: feeling tired all the time, getting too much or not enough sleep, gaining or losing weight, having frequent headaches, body pain, or other physical symptoms, as well as being sick more frequently. The good news is that there are ways to help prevent some of these issues, which include:

· Eat all the Meals – set the alarm on your phone and ensure you’re eating a well-balanced breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Skipping meals happen often, but when we eat consistently, we can strengthen our immune system and make sure our body has the fuel it needs to get through anything.

· Stay Active – We know you do a lot of running around when you’re caregiving. There are often physical demands on the job. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get outside and enjoy the sunshine. Perhaps a local community center has a Tai-Chi class you can join to keep those muscles and joints limber.

· Keep Your Doctor Appointments – yup, you saw that correctly. Just because your spouse has medical needs doesn’t mean that yours are insignificant.

Take the time to make sure you’re getting all of your checkups.

· Seek Respite Care – take a break and let someone help. As parents, we inevitably understand that the more people who love our children, the better off they are because that is just another person who can help them when they struggle. The same concept applies to caregiving. You can seek respite care and find professionals who can help, from a few hours a week to as much time as you need. These professionals become part of your care network and are there to help support you and your spouse. You aren’t alone.

Staying Mentally Healthy When Caring for a Spouse

As a family caregiver, there may be moments where you feel frustrated, tired, and even angry. When you experience these feelings, inevitably, guilt can sneak in because you don’t want to feel negative about doing something for your spouse. This is particularly stressful in spousal caregiving situations because caregivers worry that these feelings may damage the relationship. First, knowing that all these feelings are normal is important. Second, there are preventative measures you can take to help stay mentally healthy when you are caring for your spouse.

· Get Connected – this means finding resources, groups, and other caregivers in your community that you can use as a sounding board of support.

· Find Some “Me” Time – you can’t take care of others unless you are able to take care of yourself first.

Whether you decide to take a walk or join a bridge club, book club, or go out for weekly bingo, find a few moments each day that you can do something for yourself.

· Stay Social – friends keep you sane.

Stay connected to your friends, family, and any other community groups you are involved in; these interactions help you work out mental worries and put things into perspective.

· Get Chatty – don’t cringe at the idea of a therapist. Find someone you can talk to, whether this is a church leader, best friend, or a professional; it is important that you are able to voice your frustrations and hear someone tell you that it’s okay.

Caring For Your Spouse while Maintaining a Healthy Relationship

Probably one of the most challenging aspects of spousal caregiving is the thought of losing the support you once had when both of you were healthy and invested in your relationship.

The dynamic shifted somehow, and you may be wondering how to maintain that connection with your loved one. You can care for your spouse and maintain a healthy relationship; here are some tips to help:

· Stay Physically Connected – this can include a comforting pat on the shoulder, holding hands while watching a movie, or cuddling close on a chilly evening. Physical connections can help lower blood pressure, stress, and help maintain a trusting relationship.

· Practice Teamwork – your spouse should participate in their care for as long as they are able.

Let them lead the charge, then communicate with them when you need help. Stay the strong team that you’ve always been and treat the caregiving as something you’re working on together.

· Talk & Listen – they’ve been saying it for years, communication is key for relationships.

Keep doing anything you’ve been doing for as long as you are able. If you have a daily routine where you each download your day for each other, do that; if you always have Sunday dinner and chat over dessert, do that. Find the thing that is your communication thing and keep doing it.

You can also find assistance through local caregiver programs such as those provided by Homewatch CareGivers of Charlotte. Our team is always available to provide information, answer questions, and give you resources. Providing our clients with compassionate and professional assistance is always a privilege. Don’t hesitate to contact us today if you have more questions or keep browsing our website for more information.