Caring for a sick or disabled spouse has unique challenges. The spousal caregiver is faced with juggling the position of caregiver with the role of being a loving and intimate partner. An often added dimension is that the spousal caregiver has health concerns of their own.
A study published in the Journal of American Medical Association reports that spousal caregivers over age 65 who are experiencing mental or emotional strain as a result of their caregiving duties have a 63 percent increased risk of dying compared to non-caregivers of the same age.
Fast Facts From Family Caregiver Alliance:
About one in ten (11%) caregivers report that caregiving has caused their physical health to get worse.
Women who spend nine or more hours a week caring for an ill or disabled spouse increase their risk of heart disease two-fold.
Nearly three-quarters (72%) of caregivers reported that they had not gone to the doctor as often as they should, and more than half (55%) had missed doctor's appointments.
Elderly spousal caregivers (aged 66-96) who experience caregiving-related stress have a 63% higher mortality rate than non-caregivers of the same age.
Don’t Confuse Caregiving Time with Quality Spouse TimeSpousal Caregiving
For example, giving medication or transporting your spouse to a doctor’s appointment is not quality couple time. Try to preserve any of the special activities that have always been a part of your marriage. If you previously ate dinner together, try not to let your caregiving role change that. If you have always enjoyed watching movies together, continue to make that activity a part of your quality time spent together.
Don’t be Afraid to Ask for Help
If you have children, friends, or extended family willing to help, assign them a few caregiving duties. Research shows that hiring support services and utilizing respite care to reduce caregiver burden reduces the negative impact of spousal caregiving – especially for older spouses.
Seek Out Support
Caregiver support groups, friends, family, and anyone else you know who has had similar experiences.
Take Care of YOU – Physically and Emotionally
Don’t forget to eat, exercise, and get enough sleep. Keep your doctor’s appointments. Fill out your prescriptions. Take some time for yourself every day. Participate in activities you enjoy and keep talking to family and friends.