Being a family caregiver for an aging relative is one of the most selfless acts of kindness you can offer. The ability to provide for a loved one during their time of need is extremely rewarding, but can also be extremely draining. Caregiver burnout can unintentionally creep into even the most patient and loving person’s life due to the intense emotional, physical, and mental demands of being a family caregiver. According to the American Psychological Association, caregivers experience a 23% higher level of stress hormones, which affects their health, as well as their close relationships. Who do we tend to take our extra stress out on? The ones closest to us, such as our spouses. Here, we’ll provide tips for how to continue to care for your spouse while simultaneously being a family caregiver.
Parents Matter, But So Do Spouses
Even while caring for an aging parent or relative, it is critical to let your spouse know that they are still a priority. Carve out weekly time for you to both do an activity you enjoy. Ask for a close friend or other relative to assume caregiving duties for the evening, and commit your time and attention to a special date night with your best friend. Even if it’s only for a couple of hours, the quality of alone time spent with your spouse is an important re-connection.
Keep Communication Lines Open
Honest and open communication keeps spouses on the same page. The more you and your partner communicate, the stronger support you’re able to provide for your aging relative. A great communication practice when conversations become difficult? Utilize the art of paraphrasing so that you can both clearly hear each other when topics become emotional or difficult. Before answering your partner, try this: “What I think I heard you say was…”. This technique allows you to re-frame your spouse’s concerns or questions, and ensures that you’re both “hearing” the same thing.
Practice Teamwork With Your Partner
To avoid caregiver burnout, remember that you’re not in this alone! Your spouse is your teammate for life, and when the two of you work together nothing is impossible. Practicing teamwork at home can be as simple as tag-teaming the dishes and laundry after a long work, or involve fun physical challenges such as rock climbing during your weekly date night.
Keep the Romance Alive
Romance and love languages come in many forms. For some spouses, the act of vacuuming the living room or cleaning the bathroom is a way to show affection and care, while for others chocolates and red wine set the prelude for an intimate evening. Through quality communication, you know what your spouse needs to feel cherished and loved, so remember to speak their love language and keep the romance alive.
Stay Healthy and Active Together
Not only is physical activity a great stress reliever, it’s also a lot of fun if you get to spend time with your spouse! You can go for a walk after dinner, hit a yoga class on Sunday morning, or commit to learning how to kayak down a local river. Staying healthy and active together refreshes your mind, body, spirit, and relationship.
Ask for Help
If you’re feeling overwhelmed with your duties as a family caregiver, know when it’s time to ask for help. There is no shame in admitting that you need a break, or your stress levels are too high. Even though you care for someone that you love dearly, it is still a monumental daily task. Reach out to friends or family, or consider seeking professional outside help to pitch in with the caregiving duties. Don’t wait until you’ve reached your breaking point to ask for help!
It’s crucial to employ both patience and understanding between partners when undertaking the care of an aging relative. Also, know that there are senior living options, such as Nye Health Services, that provide safe, secure, and quality care for your loved ones.