Caring for an ill spouse is always a difficult process, but it’s especially trying for seniors. In addition to coping with their own aging process and potential health issues, seniors who are caring for ill spouses must also contend with the emotional and mental strain of watching their loved one become ill and die. This can be exhausting and can easily have an adverse impact on the health of the surviving spouse. Fortunately, there are many ways to make caring for an ill spouse just a big easier for seniors to manage.
1. Ask For Help
One of the most important things seniors caring for their ill spouses need to remember is that it is okay to ask for help. Often, spouses feel the need to provide for their sick husband or wife’s care all on their own. While this is a valid feeling, the execution of it often leads to seniors who feel overwhelmed, get injured, or become ill themselves. Fortunately, you can avoid this by asking for help. Asking for help is a pivotal part of providing quality care for your aging spouse. With this in mind, consider asking an adult child or a neighbor to assist you with tasks that are physically challenging for you (lifting heavy objects, for example) or hiring a housecleaning service to lighten your load. In addition to allowing you to focus more fully on your spouse’s care, these steps can also go a long way toward helping ensure you don’t feel overwhelmed or chronically stressed.
2. Know Your Limits
It’s difficult to provide quality care if you’re injured, ill, or disabled. Because of this, it’s important to know your limits well enough that you won’t push yourself past them in an effort to care for your spouse. This means not doing jobs that are too difficult for you to manage and not sacrificing your health to look after your spouse. While it can be difficult to know your limits and set boundaries surrounding them, it’s an important aspect of providing quality care for an aging spouse.
3. Find A Home Care Agency
For a senior that’s been attempting to provide a spouse’s care all on his or her own, finding a quality home care company can be a lifesaver. Contrary to what many people believe, hiring a caregiver doesn’t mean you have to relinquish responsibility for your spouse’s care entirely. It simply means that you can share the burden of round-the-clock care with someone else. In-home caregivers can assist you with daily activities like helping your spouse bathe or get dressed while also helping to manage things like medication schedules, doctor appointments, and chores like house cleaning and cooking. While many seniors are reticent to hire an in-home care aide, doing so can be a huge help.
While it’s difficult to care for an aging spouse at any point in life, it’s especially difficult when the healthy spouse is older than 60 and not as physically able as they once were. Because of this, hiring in-home care assistance can be a great way to safeguard your health while also providing your spouse with the care he or she needs.
4. Make A Choice About Your Attitude
While caring for an aging spouse is a difficult process, it’s also a continuation of the vows you took when you married. By remembering this and seeing your care as an act of tenderness toward your spouse rather than a burden you must cope with alone, you can make a conscious choice to be happy and to care for yourself well throughout the entire process. There are many trying aspects of caring for an aging spouse, and making a choice to maintain a positive attitude and be happy throughout can impact the care you’re able to give and help enhance your satisfaction and mood. If you need help looking on the sunny side of things, consider joining an online support group or seeing a therapist.
5. Don’t Forget To Care For Yourself
Caring for an ill spouse can be all-consuming and many seniors get so wrapped up in the tasks at hand that they forget to eat, drink, and exercise as they normally would. While this is a normal response to the extraordinary burden of caring for an aging partner, it’s also a dangerous place to put yourself. If you’re not healthy, you can’t provide quality care, which does nothing for your spouse. Keep yourself in good health by eating well, sleeping enough, drinking enough water, and getting some exercise in on a daily basis. While it may seem like a small step, these things can have a huge impact on your ability to provide quality care. One of the best things you can do while caring for your spouse is to set aside some time – even if it’s only ten minutes – each day for “you time.” This can help safeguard your mental health and ensure that you’re getting the respites you need to stay healthy and happy.
6. Safeguard Your Mental Health
Spouses caring for their ill husbands or wives are at a high risk for depression and anxiety. Because of this, it’s important that you safeguard your own mental health while caring for your loved one. Consider seeing a counselor or therapist or simply making time each week to meet with a trusted group of friends or confidants. Having space to vent your frustrations, sadness, or difficulty is incredibly healthy and can help ensure that you don’t go crazy while attempting to care for your spouse.
7. Know Your Options
While spouses caring for sick husbands or wives often feel alone, there are dozens of community and local organizations that can often offer a helping hand. Depending upon your unique situation, things like Meals on Wheels or an adult daycare program may be appropriate. You may also have access to free assistance from a church or community group. If you’re struggling to care for your spouse on your own, don’t be afraid to explore the options available to you in your local area. This can help relieve some of the burden you feel surrounding your spouse’s care and may make the entire thing more bearable for you.
While caring for an aging spouse is a difficult experience, there are many things seniors can do to make the process easier, less stressful, and more manageable on a daily basis. From enlisting the help of friends and family members to hiring an in-home caregiver, seniors aren’t as alone as they may think. Additionally, seniors can safeguard their physical and mental health by ensuring that they’re sleeping enough, eating well, drinking enough water, and exercising daily. Some seniors may also benefit from seeing a therapist or counselor to cope with feelings of grief, anxiety, or depression. These measures can go a long way toward ensuring the health, safety, and well-being of the spouse providing the caregiving in order to make sure that the ill spouse gets all of the care he or she so badly needs.