May 13, 2016 | 8:00 am | By Pants Up Easy
The role of caregiver is never an easy one. It requires a huge level of commitment, and is exhausting work, both physically and emotionally. When the person you’re caring for is your spouse, the challenges increase dramatically. Anyone who’s married knows that it can be difficult enough some days just to live in peace and harmony with your spouse, even in the best of times. Adding the job of caregiver to the person you’re already a wife to is likely to complicate matters further. In fact, this can be so challenging for some that the N.Y. Times described the combined roles of caregiver and wife as being a “roller-coaster ride from hell”.
Big Changes In Life Plans
If you’re like many other married couples I know, you probably had some big plans for your later years in life, and have worked hard to achieve those goals. Perhaps it was a retirement home in a warmer climate, matching rocking chairs on the porch, and long walks together, hand in hand, or traveling the world together. But you may no longer be able to fulfill these dreams. The change may have happened quite suddenly, if your husband suffered a spinal cord injury which left him paralyzed, for example. It’s going to require a significant change in your life goals and your mindset in general.
Many wives who are also caregivers describe their lives as lonely. This obviously doesn’t mean “alone”, since you’re always there with the partner you’re caring for. But there can be a strong sense of isolation, when so much of your life energy is spent focused on your husband’s needs. There can also be deep feelings of disappointment and frustration, when your partner is not able to give you the support you need, or help with those tasks around the house he used to do. These feelings may become even more dramatic if your husband suffers from dementia, and may not even seem to be present in conversations and other interactions.
This may be the elephant in the room for caregivers. No one wants to admit that they’re resentful of their disabled loved one, but it’s tough, or maybe impossible, not to feel that way, at least some of the time. As much as you want to be the best wife and caregiver you can, you’re going to find yourself exhausted, frustrated, maybe even physically sore from lifting and moving your husband. You may even have to deal with his incontinence. And those dreams of your retirement, which may have faded away by now. Let’s be honest. There are days when you may be resentful or even angry, feeling that he somehow didn’t hold up his end of the bargain.
Caregivers need to take care of themselves too
Being both a wife and a caregiver is demanding, and can cause stress, frustration, maybe even injuries, and there’s a big burnout factor. It’s important to take care of yourself. Ask for additional help from others when you need it. Take breaks if possible. By all means, work on stress management. This is not being selfish, or shirking your responsibilities. Doing what’s needed to manage your health and well-being will enable you to be a better caregiver when you’re back “on”, and may allow you to regain some of the lost quality of relationship with your disabled spouse.
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