Transitioning from a spouse to a caregiver role for a loved one can be difficult and challenging for any relationship. There are times when the changes can be difficult to navigate.
When the role of being a spouse takes a backseat, you may find yourself feeling more like a nursemaid tending to a patient. Understandably, this can be a confusing and heartbreaking time.
If you have taken on the role of a caregiver in your relationship, you need support and resources to navigate the challenges. Read on below to learn more about this demanding role and what you can do to make the experience easier for you and your spouse.
- Challenges of Caring for a Spouse
- How to Take Care of Yourself While Caregiving for a Spouse
- Can Spouses Get Paid To Be a Caregiver?
- Signs Caregiving for a Spouse Is Too Risky
Challenges of Caring for a Spouse
It is not uncommon for marriages to falter or break when a relationship isn’t balanced. Knowing what to expect can help you better prepare for the challenges you could face if you find yourself caring for a loved one.
Being a spousal caregiver comes with unique challenges. According to studies, spouse caregivers report more depression, have greater financial stress, and experience more psychological distress.
Issues Spousal Caregivers Face
Spousal caregivers have a lot of day-to-day responsibilities. On top of their own personal needs, there are overwhelming tasks that can pile up. Eventually, this can cause a toll on the relationship as well as the caregiver’s well-being.
The following are challenges spousal caregivers may face:
It is not uncommon for spousal caregivers to neglect themselves because they are too busy taking care of their partner. Injuries and physical exhaustion are common. Self-care is not prioritized.
Spousal caregivers may have their own medical problems, but their medical needs tend to get shelved because of the demands of caregiving. If medical problems go untreated, they may worsen over time.
With a hectic schedule, caregivers often lack the time for social interaction. They may be more likely to stay at home to monitor their spouse. This can result in social isolation and withdrawal of the caregiver.
Long-term self-neglect and fatigue can result in emotional distress. Without the proper support, spousal caregivers will experience burnout. The imbalance in the relationship can also cause emotional problems for a couple. Intimacy problems are common. Spouse caregivers often find themselves longing for love and attention from their partners.
Even professional and private caregivers have to make sure to take care of themselves, and they have been trained! Don’t underestimate the side effects of providing care for a loved one.
How to Take Care of Yourself While Caregiving for a Spouse
To avoid caregiver burnout and fatigue, it is crucial to practice self-care. Taking care of yourself is just as important as giving care to your partner. When your own personal and emotional needs are fulfilled, it will be less challenging to provide love and care to your spouse.
Self-care Tips for the Spouse Caregiver
Know when to rest.
Listen to your body. If you are feeling tired, irritable, or depressed, you might be physically exhausted. Take some time off to rest and give your body the break that it needs.
Exercising regularly has been proven to improve mood and outlook. Take short walks two to three times a week. If you can’t go out, do some yoga or dance workouts in the comfort of your home.
Do things you love.
Make time to participate in the activities you enjoy. Set aside 30 minutes in a day where you can focus on doing a hobby, craft, or activity that you love. Do this as much as possible to bring joy and pleasure to your days.
Share your feelings.
It isn’t healthy to keep your feelings bottled up. Voicing your frustrations with friends or family members can help lighten the emotional load that you are carrying. Writing your thoughts in a journal can also help release your emotions.
Join a support group.
Having a community of people who understand what you are going through is beneficial. Join a caregiver support group and seek help from professionals who can guide you through your situation.
Did you know?
Can Spouses Get Paid To Be a Caregiver?
Yes, if you are a caregiver for your spouse, you can receive compensation through certain state assistance programs. There are several state programs that can pay spouses or other family caregivers. Eligibility will depend on factors such as your income, the state where you live, your insurance, and if you or your spouse are veterans.
Will Medicare or Social Security Pay a Spouse To Be a Caregiver?
No, Medicare doesn’t cover non-medical care costs. This means that spouses who provide personal care to their partners can’t be compensated by Medicare. Social security also typically doesn’t pay for family caregivers.
Will Medicaid Pay a Spouse To Be a Caregiver?
Yes, some state Medicaid programs have spousal caregiving payment programs. For example, Oregon’s Spousal Pay Program pays spouses for caregiving duties at an agreed-upon rate. The purpose of this program is to prevent nursing home and other senior housing admissions which are much more costly to the state Medicaid program.
Signs Caregiving for a Spouse Is Too Risky
There are signs that indicate caregiving for a spouse has become too risky. If any of these apply to you, it is best to step back and re-evaluate your role. It may be time to hire a professional caregiver to supplement taking care of your loved one.
The signs below may indicate it’s time for you to step back from caregiving for a spouse:
- Feeling resentful about your situation
- Increased anxiety and irritability
- Feeling anger towards your spouse
- Ignoring your own health needs
- Abusing substances to deal with your stress
- Wanting to self-harm
- Lacking interest in past hobbies and other fun activities
- Isolating from friends and family
What Is Caregiver Resentment?
When caregiver burnout is prolonged, caregiver resentment can occur. The emotional and physical distress causes the caregiver to feel anger, resentment, and even hatred toward their loved one. The negative feelings can extend to other family members who are not as helpful and present.
What Is Spouse Caregiver Burnout?
Spouse-caregiver burnout is a state of physical and emotional exhaustion. This happens when the spouse caregiver’s personal needs have been neglected for a long time. They may feel resentment towards their spouse for not being able to reciprocate the care and love that they provide.
Signs of spouse-caregiver burnout include:
- a change in attitude
- negative language
- being detached and unconcerned
- not wanting to talk
- angry outbursts
What if Caring for a Spouse Becomes Too Difficult?
If your situation becomes too difficult to manage on your own, seek out help from a professional senior care provider. Start with hiring a private caregiver or work with a local home care agency to focus on being a spouse to your partner and regain time for yourself.
Being a caregiver for your spouse is a huge challenge that can strain even the best marriages. It is important to develop a good routine, have healthy communication, and find time for yourself. While this may be a difficult undertaking, remember that you are not alone. There are various resources, support groups, and healthcare professionals that are available to give you a helping hand.
If you are looking for caregiver support, consider the following:
- Don’t forget to ask for help from family and friends. Even an hour or two a day can recharge your batteries.
- There are a variety of resources available for caregivers, both in-person and online.
- If you are feeling financially stressed by caring for your spouse, there may be help available through Medicaid, the VA, and your long-term care insurance.
- If caregiving becomes too much for you, it may be time to bring in professionals. Home care agencies, private caregivers, and/or geriatric care managers are trained to step in when you need a break.
Caregiving for a Spouse Frequently Asked Questions
Yes, you can receive compensation for being your spouse’s caregiver. There are state, VA, and insurance programs that pay for family caregivers. Eligibility will depend on factors including your state, income, and insurance.
While you may be bound by your vows to each other, you are technically not legally obligated to take care of your spouse when they are sick. However, in some states, you may have shared legal responsibilities regarding medical bills.
Caregiving for a spouse has many unique challenges that can cause a strain on the marriage. The emotional toll from the unbalanced relationship often results in increased conflict and tension. Proactive measures and healthy communication are needed to keep the marriage strong.
If you are a spousal caregiver, it’s important to remember to not neglect your own needs. Making sure that your own personal, emotional, and physical needs are fulfilled is important to your well-being. When you are happy and well-rested, you can provide the best care for your loved one.
Amie Clark, BSW
Aging Advocate and Senior Care Expert
Amie has worked with older adults and their families for the past twenty-plus years of her career. Her senior care knowledge is based on her experience as a social worker, family caregiver, and senior care consultant. Learn more about Amie here.