Being a family caregiver for an aging spouse is one of the most challenging roles you’ll ever take on, mainly because it’s one you’ve never prepared for. And it can take its toll over time. Spouses providing care report more depression, anxiety, and financial loss than other married couples of the same age.
AmeriCare Plus has helped many spouses care for their partner and themselves over the past 26 years. Here are eight tips we’ve found that will be helpful if you’re providing care for an aging spouse.
Allow time to accept the relationship changes
Stepping in as your spouse’s caregiver can happen gradually, or it can happen quickly. If you haven’t had time to process your new role, be patient with yourself. Just as becoming a new spouse, parent, or employee has an adjustment period, so does becoming your spouse’s caregiver.
Learn about their physical and mental needs
Your husband or wife may have developed one or more physical health challenges which have led you to assume the caregiver role, or it may be due to cognitive changes like Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia. Learn about their condition(s) and needs from their doctor, the many available online resources, or from a local support group. It will help you be a better, more confident caregiver.
Help your spouse retain their dignity
Your spouse may not only be experiencing some guilt over having you care for them, but they may also feel embarrassed if you’re having to provide personal care, such as helping them with using the toilet or bathing. Help them maintain their dignity by letting them perform tasks they still can and not trying to do everything for them.
Include them in decision-making when possible
If your spouse has the mental agility to make decisions, include them in decisions about their care and medical treatment. Because they have physical limitations doesn’t mean they aren’t capable cognitively of being involved in decision-making.
Take time to have fun together
Having fun together can alleviate some of the stress you both may be feeling. Plan a game night together with your spouse, have an indoor date night with dinner and a movie, or simply sit together and reminisce as you listen to some music you’ve enjoyed as a couple. Your roles may have changed, but the romance doesn’t have to end.
Practice healthy self-care
If you don’t take good care of yourself, you won’t be able to provide adequate care for your spouse. Make sure you eat a healthy diet, take short breaks during the day, and exercise at least three times per week. Also, stay hydrated and get at least seven hours of sleep each night.
Get help when you need it
There will be times you’ll need help from others, such as friends or family members, like children and older grandchildren. Many people who care deeply about your spouse will be happy to help if you ask. Let them know specifically what you need, like asking for someone to pick up prescriptions, do laundry, or cook a meal occasionally. Don’t try to do this alone. Everyone needs help now and then.
Use a professional caregiver as needed
When you begin caring for your spouse, fatigue and frustration can arise. A professional caregiver can provide services like respite care for you, allowing you to take some time for yourself to rest and recharge your batteries, or take care of personal needs like doctor’s visits. However, as time goes on, more extensive help may be needed.
If you live in Virginia and need help from a professional caregiver, AmeriCare Plus is here for you and your family. We have ten locations throughout the Commonwealth and are here to serve you. Contact us today to learn about our compassionate care delivered in the security of your own home.