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Signs that Spousal Caregiving May Be Becoming Too Risky for You

Spousal caregiving may becoming risky
All caregivers who experience elevated levels of stress are at an increased risk for physical and emotional issues.

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April 11, 2010

"Will you still need me,
will you still feed me,
when I'm sixty-four."
The Beatles, "When I'm 64"

Times have certainly changed since Lennon and McCartney penned and sang those words in 1967. Medical and healthcare strides are allowing people to live well into their 70's and 80's. Despite those health advances, the fact remains that caring for a spouse in need, regardless of their age, is very demanding, stressful and could threaten your own health.

The Journal of American Medical Association reports that if you are a spousal caregiver between the ages of 66 and 96, and are experiencing ongoing mental or emotional strain as a result of your caregiving duties, there's a 63% increased risk of dying over those people in the same age group who are not caring for a spouse.

As a caregiving spouse, you may begin to feel very isolated from friends and feel tremendous guilt about your own unmet needs. There can also be a sense of loss, especially if your spouse suffers from dementia or Alzheimer's disease.

So how do you know if caregiving is becoming too risky for you? Examine this list and see how many apply to you:

  • Missing or delaying your own doctor appointments
  • Ignoring your own health problems or symptoms
  • Not eating a healthy diet for lack of time
  • Overusing tobacco and alcohol when you feel stressed
  • Giving up exercise habits for lack of time
  • Losing sleep
  • Losing connections with friends for lack of time to socialize
  • Bottling up feelings of anger and frustration and then being surprised by angry, even violent, outbursts directed at your spouse, other family members, co-workers - even strangers
  • Feeling sad, down, depressed or hopeless
  • Loss of energy
  • Lacking interest in things that used to give you (and your spouse) pleasure
  • Feeling resentful toward your spouse
  • Blaming your spouse for the situation
  • Feeling that people ask more of you than they should
  • Feeling like caregiving has affected family relationships in a negative way
  • Feeling annoyed by other family members who don't help out or who criticize your care

All caregivers who experience elevated levels of stress are at an increased risk for physical and emotional issues.

Even if you are only experiencing two or three of these items, it is important to get help and support.

The truth is your spouse/partner will be in better hands if you are healthy.

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Thoughts and stories from others
  1. September 23, 2016 at 7:32 am | Posted by Linda Reese

    I have 80 year old woman whose not related to me with lots of health issues living in my home, her son lives across the street, he an his sister both promised me they would pitch in and help with her,


  2. August 1, 2016 at 9:46 am | Posted by Margaret Fowler

    I have just begun to be my husband's caregiver after they could do no more for my husband, who has primary liver cancer. It has been three months since diagnosis. He came home from the hospital yesterday. I'm not suffering burnout, just having difficulty in having people understand to not overwhelm. Standing and staring at him makes me uncomfortable because he was a private man, he was someone who enjoyed being alone. He does not want to be a spectacle. Sit down, pull up a chair and talk. He may not respond but he can hear even if he may or may not make sense. Do not pity. Show respect for the man he still is. And don't tell me what to do in my own house, show some respect for me.


  3. July 16, 2016 at 11:20 am | Posted by LK

    Certainly feel your pain. So sad that he can not be loving enough to give you some free time. Are you able to just go to a bedroom and close the door if only for an hour? As I tell myself; hang in there! Things will get better.


  4. July 16, 2016 at 11:18 am | Posted by LK

    8 years and still counting. (he is now 82) have my husband back in Skilled Nursing because we both realized I could not take care of all his needs 24/7. He has an above average LTC, so we can afford to have him where he is. I do not feel guilt about having him there. What I do fear is if he can eventually get up and walk well enough to take himself for bathroom needs, etc. If he came back home again, it would still put pressure back on me that I do not feel I want. For this, I do feel guilty. He is ready to pass on, and due to his continuing failing health, I pray that he will be called home. Do others make this prayer?


  5. July 16, 2016 at 3:07 am | Posted by Lynn

    Unlike most caregivers here, my husband is 46 and I am 37. He was diagnosed with multiple ailments in Nov. 2003, while I was pregnant with our second daughter. His problems stem from when he served in Desert Storm as the US military tested chemicals and medications on their own soldiers (look up Desert Storm Syndrome, experimental pesticide injections and Pyrodostigimine Bromide Pills). It was not easy to deal with the diagnosis, and it gets harder over time. It has taken over my life and causes me a tremendous amount of stress, frustration, anger and depression. We have been together since May of '01, and the majority of it is spent at the VA, dealing with medications, scheduling his appointments as he suffers with memory loss as well. Plus, being a full time parent to two daughters under the age of 15 who depend on me tremendously. Due to the way his ailments and medications make him feel, simply going for a walk together is a distant dream. I love him so much, but I hate the ailments and negatively that have affected our life. He does try to make me laugh and make us happy, but somedays, its hard to find joyful moments. This is not living for us, we just exist. Most people say stop living in the past, well it's hard when your happiest memories are from your youth.


  6. June 25, 2016 at 12:20 pm | Posted by annette miller

    I a 75 my husband is 76, he has had many health concerns over the years including cancer, heart disease and diabetes and he is legally blind. He has trouble walking. I have been taking care of him for 5 years. He requires alot of help with day to day things. My big problem is that he is super critical. I have become resentful which makes me feel guilty. Would love to go out for a couple of hours but the grief I get if I suggest it is not worth making plans. Dont have any real questions, just needed a place to vent


  7. June 3, 2016 at 4:42 pm | Posted by Rene Ryan

    My husband has dementia been going on for 5 years now .Getting worse.I have to do everything for both of us.Been married 46 years.I resent him even if it is not his fault.I try to stay calm but it gets hard. I need to vent and talk to people for help.I am so depressed and desperate.


    • July 16, 2016 at 5:06 pm | Posted by LK

      Do a lot of us out here ever hear you! No matter how long married, how deep the love, there comes a time when it does just break OUR spirit. As I keep telling myself (thru the tears, of which there are many), continue onward and the end will come.


    • September 22, 2016 at 11:08 am | Posted by June

      My husband was diagnosed with stage 4 throat cancer in 2014. Radiation destroyed his throat but got the cancer. May 2016 they removed total voice box with hopes that he would eat and drink again. August 22, 2016 hew was diagnosed with moderate dementia. Guess we missed the mild dementia during treatments. I to am a angry caregiver not because I don't love my husband but because he was never there for me when I went through illnesses. Our only child has MS so I have no one to help me. I pray a lot and ask for strength to get me through this. But I must admit there are times I ask God to please take him. I don't know how long I can go on.


  8. June 3, 2016 at 4:36 pm | Posted by Rene Ryan

    I need people to vent too.This life is so very hard and depressing.


  9. October 6, 2015 at 9:46 am | Posted by joe mcelfish

    I meet 15 of the 16 signs on the list. My wife and I have been married 46 years and this past year has been the worse. My wife never gets Any better I take her to some of the best doctors I can find. No one realizes what the both of us is going thru. I am starting to feel my life is a waste nothing gets any better and no one cares


  10. February 3, 2015 at 11:09 am | Posted by Janette

    Readers, please be very cautious. This sounds like one of the many scam letters & emails my parents receive almost daily. Scam alert!!


    • April 11, 2016 at 6:45 pm | Posted by Heather

      My doctor suggested this website to me. I do not believe it is a scam. There is a lot of good information here.


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