Question: I am caregiver for my husband, who cannot walk without help, cannot speak clearly, cannot do much for himself at all. Sometimes I feel like giving up. I am discouraged and just want to be happy like we used to be. This will never be—I realize that. I just need someone to talk to that is in my shoes.
Dr. Amy: It sounds like you and your husband had a wonderful life together before his illness changed what he is able to do for himself. That’s a great gift. But life is very different now and you are absolutely right: you need someone to talk to who knows what you are going through. If you broke your arm, you would get help. Now your heart is broken—and that is much harder to heal. Don’t try to do it all by yourself.
I encourage you to join a support group. Organizations like the Alzheimer’s Association, the American Heart Association, and the American Parkinson Disease Association can all link you to support groups in your area. So too can your local hospital. Talking about your pain and your loss will help.
It would also be good for you to take a break from your caregiving role. Can you have someone come to your home for a few hours and take over, so you can see friends and have some fun? Taking regular breaks will add some sparkle to your life—and allow you to get back in touch with your role as wife when you return. If you are the only caregiver, day in day out, it’s easy to lose touch with this. Taking a break is not selfish—it's important for your own health.
I don’t know the details of your husband’s condition, but I want to leave you with the thought that the man you married is still with you. He may be harder to reach and have difficulty expressing himself, but he is in there and he loves you. I encourage you to think about the activities you used to enjoy doing as a couple. There are many things you can no longer do together. But what can you do? Can you modify an activity so you can still enjoy it in some way? Think of how good this would make you both feel.
I send you the strength you need to reach out for help, and the creativity—and determination—you need to bring beauty and laughter back into your life. Good luck.
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