If you and your spouse are caregivers for a family member I do not have to tell you how difficult it is. The stress can be brutal on a marriage. The doctor visits, scheduled medications and added expense combined with the typical issues of a marriage can be completely overwhelming. Even the most solid marriages can break from the strain and exhaustion of caregiving. It’s truly amazing that some marriages not only handle the challenge of caregiving with grace and dignity, but actually strengthen because of it. How is it possible?
Here are a few actionable tips:
GET PROFESSIONAL HELP
Asking a professional for help can mean the difference between a happy marriage and divorce. There is a wealth of expert resources waiting to help you and your family with the challenge of caregiving for an elder family member.
- Talk to in-home care specialists that will consult on issues including senior day care, home-delivered meals, transportation assistance, home health care, personal care and chore services, and much more. They will also help you with services such as skilled nursing care, home health aides, speech and physical therapy.
- Assisted Living specialists are available to help you recognize the warning signs for a loved one who may need greater care than can be provided at home. They can also consult on the characteristics, benefits, costs, and services typically provided to seniors in each setting, so that you can choose the option that provides the best match for your current and anticipated future needs.
- Senior Real Estate Specialists such as myself can be a fantastic resource for helping an elder adult downsize into a more manageable living situation. A good SRES agent will also come with their stable of professionals such as elder law attorneys, reverse mortgage specialists and financial retirement experts.
REACH OUT TO RELATIVES AND OTHERS
Do not be afraid to ask for help. I guarantee you that your relatives do not understand the strain that being a caregiver puts on your marriage and family. Once you make it clear to them, you’ll be surprised how willing they are to help. Maybe they can’t be involved in the day to day caregiving, but there are other options.
- Ask siblings and other family members to take over the caregiving for your relative for a weekend, so you and your partner can get away.
- If a sibling lives far away and can’t provide much daily assistance, find out if she can provide some financial help.
- Join a caregiver support group so you’ll have regular support and fellowship from others in the same situation. If you can’t find a support group in your area, start your own at a local senior center or care facility.
MAKE COMMUNICATION A PRIORITY
Now, I know when you’re stressed out, resentment can build particularly if the loved one you’re assisting is your spouse’s relative. You must talk with your spouse about how caregiving is personally affecting you. Remember that you’re a team and you will be stronger together than apart. As a matter of fact, I believe you should put it on the schedule. Set specific times to meet and talk about strategies for caregiving while nurturing your marriage. You won’t regret this use of your time.
Also, remember that it’s OK to vent your frustrations. Now, men have a tendency to want to fix things. If this is you, resist the temptation. Just listen. I promise, your spouse will tell you when they want you to take action. Conversely, my guess is that she will be happy to return the favor so don’ be afraid to unburden yourself with the truth about how you’re feeling.
KEEP THE ROMANCE ALIVE
Hopefully, you already understand the need to keep the romance alive in your marriage. Of course sometimes it’s easier than others. During moments of financial stress or lack of sleep the libido can be the first to go, never mind the inclination to plan a date night. Focus on the romance in your relationship and you may find the silver bullet to managing the strain of being a caregiver.
- Create a sanctuary for your marriage. I mean a place and/or time that is untouched by the rigors of caregiving. You can even use small moments during the day as sanctuaries. Take a walk or bike ride together. Get in touch on a daily basis with why you and your spouse are so in love.
- Pamper your partner. Weekend getaways, cooking private dinners, massages, love notes, it’s all good in the best possible way. Everyone deserves and appreciates a little pampering whether you’re the caregiver or the partner of a caregiver and small, caring gestures can be incredibly powerful.
- Consider standing rituals as an oasis. For example, plan a couch date once a week for your favorite show. Binge watching aside this can be a fun bonding opportunity.
LOOK FOR THE SILVER LININGS
It’s challenging to have a good attitude about struggle. Here’s a trick. Look for the small victories and celebrate them. What do I mean? Any medical improvements do to physical therapies or new medications are wins, treat them as such. If your relative is very ill, he or she may not be able to do much, but still may enjoy taking a drive, watching a favorite movie together, or enjoying a special treat. Honor each other’s birthdays and holidays. This doesn’t mean you need to make elaborate preparations. If you’re pressed for time, pick up a cake at the grocery store and cook an easy dinner.
GO INTO CAREGIVING WITH YOUR EYES WIDE OPEN
It’s essential that couples to go into the caregiving situation with their eyes wide open and have a few backup plans in place, possible alternative living arrangements for the senior in case things don’t work out.
- Explore alternatives by researching senior facilities in your area, and take the time to visit one or two that sound appropriate.
- Find out if any of your siblings or other relatives would be able and willing to accommodate the senior, either for short stays or as a permanent alternative.
- Make it clear to your siblings that while you’re willing to care for your aging relative, you’re not willing to sacrifice your marriage to do so. This means that you may need their support for both day-to-day care and to help you make alternative arrangements if it doesn’t work out.
In some cases, a change in the caregiving arrangements may ease the situation, but the bottom line is that your marriage comes first.
Now, if you are a Real Estate professional in this space or you’d just like to work with the above 50 market in any capacity, I’ve got great news. I will be teaching a Senior Real Estate Specialist designation course coming in March 2018 so save the date and reach out to me at toni(at)tonipatillo(dotted)com for updates.