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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