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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 19, 2019 at 11:04 pm | Posted by Lea

    Ellenrose, Hear 72 yo husband is in late stage 4 kidney failure, little % away from stage 5 and has had several mini or TIA strokes. He is not going for dialysis. He is a 2nd marriage for me, we married later 2012, I am now 64. Five months after marriage, I was taking him to emergency hospitals every few weeks for severe infections aka, kidney disease. The very bad diseased kidney was removed early 2013, spent a month in hospital, 2 weeks followed by a stint in ICU due to septic shock and acute kidney failure. The doctors didn't think he would make it through, that was Summer 2013. Since 2014, there have been multiple trips to emergency hospital for infections and strokes, etc. He also has severe hip and lower back pain, been on opiate pain meds for 4 years now. He has always had a short temper and is verbally abusive towards me. He was diagnosed with severe PTSD in 2014. So far I am healthy except for the daily stress, walking on eggshells and up/down depression. We have no support from family or friends. My friends can't stand him and 3 of his adult children have nothing to do with him. I try to make the best by getting outside for regular exercise, a hobby and go out of town couple weeks a year. I am grateful for the later. This has been so hard, never thought my 60's were going to end up like this, guess those are selfish thoughts.


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