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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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"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. November 11, 2018 at 9:37 am | Posted by Shannon Meredith

    My husband had his back totally rebuilt seven years ago with rods and screw after several other minor back repairs that started the year after we were married. Due to high pain level a Pain Stimulator was installed but has not reduced his pain. Pain level runs between 6-8 the majority of the time meaning he can’t do anything around the house. Theirs leaves all work as well as books to me. I have a booth at an antique mall to keep me sane but over the past week he his pain level has increased to the point he can’t get out of bed causing me to wait on him hand and foot serving meals in bed and running for items he needs. I had my Lumbar 4,5 & S1 rupture in August and have barely been able to walk after 3 months. My first two months of recovery he stepped up and tried to be there for me but I couldn’t eat so he didn’t have to do much kitchen work. He has no friends or hobbies and relies totally on me. His children live their lives in other states and he seldom hears from them.

    Reply

  2. November 11, 2018 at 9:34 am | Posted by Shannon Meredith

    My husband had his back totally rebuilt seven years ago with rods and screw after several other minor back repairs that started the year after we were married. Due to high pain level a Pain Stimulator was installed but has not reduced his pain. Pain level runs between 6-8 the majority of the time meaning he can’t do anything around the house. Theirs leaves all work as well as books to me. I have a booth at an antique mall to keep me sane but over the past week he his pain level has increased to the point he can’t get out of bed causing me to wait on him hand and foot serving meals in bed and running for items he needs. I had my Lumbar 4,5 & S1 rupture in August and have barely been able to walk after 3 months. My first two months of recovery he stepped up and tried to be there for me but I couldn’t eat so he didn’t have to do much kitchen work. He has no friends or hobbies and relies totally on me. His children live their lives in other states and he seldom hears from them. I get so tired of all the demands on me and I’ve become resentful and depressed and get angry with myself for feeling resentful. I have a few friends and one sister I unload on but they have their lives.

    Reply

  3. October 28, 2018 at 2:31 pm | Posted by Miranda

    My husband broke his leg 3 weeks ago and he’s been on the couch ever since and constantly complains about his situation. He’s never comfortable and is just miserable to be around. I have two kids under 10 and now I find myself feeling like a single parent of three children. His injury happened and overnight my life was changed. He needs everything done for him and I’m EXHAUSTED. I used to complain about when he got sick with a cold because to him it was like having the flu. I had no idea it could get worse. He expects me to wipe his butt and then bathe him in the shower. He has two working arms but he’s totally milking this helplessness if his. He guilt trips me into caring for him in the bathroom by saying I’m putting him more at risk for further injury if I don’t clean him up. I make him food, I get him more ice for his leg, I refill his water cup, I dump his two rotating urinals all day long and I run errands for him.I also have our two other kids that need attention and care. I have a house that needs to be maintained, laundry that needs to be done, food that needs to be prepared, dishes that need to be done. Homework and school with the kids.I’m finding myself on edge. I’m moody and resentful of him injuring himself and putting us into this situation. All I want to do is lay under the covers all day and not do anything. I have my two kids that are left for hours to entertain themselves. I’m constantly on the verge of tears.I know one day he will heal but I’ve been told by the doctor that his leg will never be the same and I know from previous injuries he’s had that a lifetime of complaining of his old injury will continue. This leg injury will do nothing but add to him complaining about his chronic neck pain that he already deals with. I’m at my wits end right now and just need to vent.

    Reply

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