Marriage – It’s something we do willingly when we’re young and in love. We take our vows with the thought of a long and happy life. The idea of growing old together fills us with joy. We picture ourselves traveling in our retirement years until eventually, we come to rest in matching rocking chairs on the porch of our home.
The picture is vivid. Until it all is thrown out the window due to sickness.
Suddenly the picture you’ve painted no longer exists. One of you needs care, and the other is “forced” to give it. You didn’t ask for the job. You don’t really want it. But you do it out of love.
Unfortunately, there is never an opportune time for caregiving. It isn’t something you plan for or schedule on your calendar. It happens, and you deal with it. It changes everything, often in a split second.
Ben and Karen lived a busy life. They each held professional jobs and were climbing the ladder of success. They were planning their empty nest years as both kids moved from high school to college. Then a stroke changed everything. Ben couldn’t keep up with the challenges of his job with his new condition. Karen was passed over for the promotion she’d been working for because the demands of her new lifestyle were just too much.
That’s the thing you rarely think about before. Not only does your life change due to your new role as a caregiver, but it also forces you to look at your finances in ways you would never have imagined.
You might be planning for a new life. You’ve gone back to school and completed a new degree. You’ve been putting in overtime vying for a new position. But your goals are suddenly waylaid because your caregiving demands are too much for the lifestyle you’ve been building. Something has to give.
You don’t know what questions to ask because you’ve never been there before.
Add in that your medical expenses may reach an all-time high, and it’s easy to see why both of you can be vulnerable to depression.
Of course, the changes don’t end there. There are still only 24 hours in the day. And when caregiving increasingly fills a lot of those hours, other things have to give.
Bill felt more and more isolated as his wife’s Alzheimer’s disease progressed. Her decline was rapid, and she hasn’t spoken in almost two years. Because she needs care around the clock, his life is consumed by the repetitive nature of caregiving. It’s a chore to get her up and dressed each morning. His stories go unanswered, and sometimes he wonders if they are also unheard. Their old friends have stopped coming by.
Even though his wife is very much alive, he finds himself grieving for everything. Losing a loved one in some ways brings closure. But the day in and day out busyness involved with caring for someone that is failing instead of getting better can take its toll.
You miss your activities, both alone and together. You miss communicating on a deep level. All of those little things you did as a couple are no longer there. And yet when you look in your spouse’s eyes, you know he or she is still there.
It plays heavy with your emotions. And that’s okay. That’s why you need support.
Are you getting the support you need as you face the caregiving road?