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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.

Find home care near you or your loved one:

"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.

Last revised: April 11, 2010

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Thoughts and stories from others
  1. May 30, 2020 at 7:39 am | Posted by Denise

    I feel for each of you and I’m so sorry for your emotional and physical pain. Nine years ago I married my second husband. At the time he had been through a couple of successful back surgeries and was pain free. Oddly enough he was reluctant to marry me since I have ms, but had few problems. Fast forward two years. He re-injures his back, has to have more surgery and go on disability. Although he had home physical therapy, he’s too lazy to do prescribed exercises. This leads to more surgery and pain. Now he needs yet another surgery. Whenever I ask how he’s doing, I get the same answer, ‘I’m doing awful and am hurrying so bad.’ Never a ‘okay today, some pain.’ It’s exhausting! He insisted on selling our home 300 miles to be closer to his family...this right after his surgeon informed him he needed surgery again. I urged him to cancel the contract on our home, but he refused. Now we are living in his parents house while he not only is waiting for surgery, but promises to build a house on property his parents are giving us. His complaints are holding up any attempt at building...I have no clue as to the home building process. He constantly complains and pouts whenever I suggest just buying a house and nixing the idea of building...I’m at the point of just buying a trailer if he wants to live on his parents land. Now my health is suffering...I’m 49 and he’s 58. I’m depressed and causing my ms symptoms to get worse. He’s worried about himself and couldn’t care less the stress this situation has on my health. I’m stuck with him since I had to go on disability myself, although I still have to care for him and not the opposite. The money I get wouldn’t be enough to support myself. Like others, I wish a meteor would hit me. At least that would be my out. God bless everyone else who feels the helplessness of their situation.


  2. May 25, 2020 at 4:45 am | Posted by Bobby jo

    My husband is 40 and I am 36 we have 2 kids ages 4 and 6. 6 months ago he had an aortic dissection, spinal stroke which left him quadriplegic..on top of that... The hospital left a towel in his chest which led to sepsis, bed sores and a leg amputation...He requires 24 hour care.. Diapers, wound vacs, Hoya lifts, there is so much I am now left with the kids, bills, Drs, appts, chores, errands, yard work, dogs etc...I skipped a shower for 3 days because I just don't have any time.. we have no extended family and recently moved to a new State so our friends are far...I feel myself getting short with my kids ..or not having time to do games or just enjoy them... We can't go on outing anymore because I don't have a wheelchair van.. And I can't leave him alone...I rush through shopping and he had been hinting towards sexual acts.... But only because he feels I may leave him or cheat (which is super offensive) but besides having not showered, or being exhausted...I have a hard time seeing him sexually anymore... How do you wipe someone's poop then get sexual? I can't... I'm scared... Not only for my mental health but for my kids sacrifice and for our marriage... Will this every get easier? I'm pending for long term care and disability so no nursing and no respite plus I'm not getting paid yet even tho I had to quit my job.... Bills are piling up and I don't know how much longer I can bare all this burden or how I can organize it so it doesn't feel so heavy.... I'm desperate for advise🥺🙏 I feel like I've lost whole life...I don't know how to transition into this new reality


  3. February 22, 2020 at 2:47 am | Posted by Brad Bearnson

    I've been my wife's caretaker for 22 years. She is 42 with progressive MS. she's been in a chair for 15 years of the 22. Her mobility is all but gone. My health is deteriorating as well, I'm on two different types of anti depressants. I am tried.


    • February 22, 2020 at 2:50 am | Posted by Brad Bearnson

      Tired as well as tried.


    • April 21, 2020 at 11:45 pm | Posted by Mike P.

      Brad...You will be fine if you just remember and dwell on the vows you took when you and your wife were married. I am now in year 42 of taking care of my wife. She too has Primary Progressive MS and has been in a wheelchair longer than I can remember. Brad, if you don't have a hobby you can do at home when your wife is resting, you need to get one.....anything to create an interest outside the care taking obligation you have. I know you love your wife....22 years is a long time....and remember....if the situation were reversed, she'd be there for you. Stay mentally strong and the physical strength will come. Also, now is a good time to learn something new....keep mentally and physically active!


    • June 22, 2020 at 1:20 pm | Posted by LInda

      Please find a therapist for yourself and a support group. It helps to have a safe place to vent, cry, talk and be listened to. If you don't take care of yourself you are no use to her.


  4. February 2, 2020 at 8:47 pm | Posted by Stacey Miller

    I was already over my marriage. I love him and always have but he had always treated me bad. Cheated, name calls, left me for a family member, he's physically and emotionally abusive. I was already looking too leave. Then he had an Aortic Dissection aneurysm and spinal stroke which left him paralyzed. 40 days in hospital was the best days in so long... My children ages 4 and 6 and I home... Able to focus. Breathe, not feel constantly critized .. I have no family help, I'm now left to care for him 24/7 and he acts like I owe him. Says I do nothing, tells others , in a joking way, that I starve him and ignore his needs. I was a stay at home mom, so all the money in our house stopped.... I've been calling day in and day out for resources, posting go fund me, dealing with his family from out of town, still going to hospital every day, filling ssi, atlas . Taking our son to school, homework, housework, and now, trash, the yard, feeding the dogs and their poop.. and if he calls out more than once and I don't hear, I'm a stupid bitch, just call his mom, don't touch him. Refuses meds, temp anything then says, he was in pain and hungry and I wouldn't do anything to help.....I hate him....I feel like I have nothing left. I sometimes have to force myself to properly care for him because as I'm cleaning up his poopy diaper head calling me a stupid bitch and saying everything I do is wrong.. bed sores are my fault. I am financially BADDD LIKE WE GOT SERVED EVICTION I'm trying to raise money. Raise my kids, protect them, take his abuse I don't feel like I can do this. .😞😞 I want to just run away and hide, he's draining me from my kids and myself.... What do I do?? Help I need advise or I fear severe depression on my party


    • February 10, 2020 at 9:12 pm | Posted by Sally O'Malley

      Stacey Miller - what about putting him in a nursing home? If his family disagrees then they can take care of him 24/7. He should have disability, which means he should have Medicare...he could go into a nursing home! You don't deserve to be treated so horribly. He will ruin your health and your kids will suffer, too. You have to figure out how to make a living to take care of your kids, which he is unable to do. Like you said, you were already going to leave him anyway. If you are a "stupid bitch" or do "everything wrong" then let him experience how things are done in a nursing home and see how he likes it then!


  5. January 27, 2020 at 11:42 am | Posted by Val

    I have been reading all the posts. My story is, I take care of my 72 year old husband. He has stage 4 cancers. He has had surgery, chemo and radiation. Now doing immunotherapy. In and out if hospital with a few infection. He us very depressed. Don't want to eat, or go out. I am now finding very hard to cope. Know it isn't going to get better for us, but try to stay positive.


    • March 17, 2020 at 8:01 am | Posted by Kathleen M Bagley

      Put him in a nursing home. When someone shows you no appreciation, that's never going to change whether they are sick or not. Run and I do mean RUN if you want any sanity for yourself and your children. I have been tending to a sick x husband which I should have never gotten back with, and now I am 61 and I suffer on a daily basis. Even my dogs noticed the difference in my home once my x came home from the hospital for the 6th time. Please RUN...….


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