April 11, 2010
"…I love thee with the breath, smiles, tears, of all my life…" Elizabeth Barrett Browning, How do I love thee?
The care of a spouse surely has its rewards. One advantage is that the partner who is need of care or assistance is already comfortable with the caregiver. You know each other's idiosyncrasies, habits and preferences. You also know each other intimately so it eases any embarrassment when dealing with private needs. You also know the home environment and what areas might be in question when it comes to safety issues.
On the down side, however, the caregiving spouse may feel odd about asking others for much needed help, fearing their loved one will be embarrassed or uncomfortable if anyone else provides care or knows that they need this care.
Spousal caregivers often feel so much stress since they also live with the person they are caring for, which doesn't provide for any breaks physically or emotionally. "It is important that the spouse continue to do some of the activities she or he likes, whether it is singing in the church choir or going to the monthly book club meeting, so that he or she continues to socialize outside of the home and give themselves a breather," advises Richard Schulz, Ph.D., caregiver stress expert at the University of Pittsburgh.
"It is important that, as a caregiver of a spouse, you don't assume you can handle everything," said Dr. Schulz. "In a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association, we found that spousal caregivers who experienced mental or emotional strain were more likely to die sooner than non-caregivers. Sometimes even the most resourceful person needs to ask for help from other family members or outside professionals - the hard part is knowing when to ask."
In order to help you understand when the stress might be getting to be too much for you, we've created a list of signs that spousal caregiving may be becoming too risky for you.
In the end, it is important that as a caregiver, you maintain your own health, because if you aren't well, you will be less able to help your spouse.
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