As our population continues to age, becoming a caregiver at some point for your spouse is almost a given.
According to a report by AARP Public Policy Institute:
- 65 percent of spousal caregivers perform medical or nursing related tasks, compared with only 42 percent of caregivers who perform a similar task for a parent
- 84 percent of people receiving care from their spouses have no other on-site professional health worker or caregiver, compared with 65 percent receiving care from others
- 58 percent of spousal caregivers receive no other assistance from family, friends or other home aides, compared with 20 percent of non-spousal caregivers
Spousal caregivers do more with less outside support. Yet that frequently takes its toll on health, both emotionally and physically, on the person providing the care.
There are seven triggers that can trap a person, allow stress to build, and begin taking its toll on your health:
At the top of the list is guilt. Guilt comes in many fashions, but usually starts with the “coulda, shoulda, woulda’s” of life. I could have done that. I should have been there. They take on the concept of never being able to do all that is necessary to help your spouse along.
Anger can show itself in a direct way, when things go wrong throughout the day and you act out on the trigger points. Anger can also show itself in an indirect way, allowing disappointment to weigh heavily on your mind.
With so many memories of the way things used to be, its understandable how a spouse can worry about the future of their spouse, and about their futures both together and individually.
Because all of your time and energy is going into caregiving, its easy to turn away from things that made you you. Groups, clubs, even friends all take a back burner when demands are high. All of which can leave you feeling like you’re alone in the world, feeling sad and depressed.
When you suddenly begin to feel overwhelmed by life’s new situation, a bitterness can begin to bubble up in the form of asking “why me”. You can resent your new lifestyle, your responsibilities, even the lack of support around you.
When others offer helpful tips, you simply hear that you aren’t doing things the right way. You take things personally, wondering why everyone can’t see all that you do.
After a lifetime together, a chronic illness can leave you grieving what used to be. It can also leave you grieving for what is to come in the future.
Notice yourself in any of these situations? Stress is unavoidable in your new caregiving role. Yet as a spouse, its more important than ever to remember your health. By setting realistic goals and asking for outside help and support in many different ways, you’ll be handle your stress in a more effective manner.