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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. September 10, 2018 at 1:25 pm | Posted by Patty

    Today isn’t a good day. I’m the only caregiver to my husband of 38 years. He’s 58 I’m 55. The past few years have been rough. He’s been in and out of the hospital with one infection after another. The last one in April 2017 almost killed him. Since he got home in August 2017 I’ve been caring for him and working 2 part time jobs. He still works from his bed running his business. I do EVERYTHING for him. He’s a very heavy guy at least 475 lbs. today for the first time I broke down and cried for an hour. I have these thoughts that I don’t like. I’ve never thought this way before and I just want to run away sometimes. I need time to myself but that never happens. I feel to guilty just running household errands. I know he doesn’t mean to make everything about him and he tries to give me space but it’s just not enough because there’s no tine left in the day. I truly love my husband but I HATE this new life of ours.... no friends to talk to anymore and kids are all away. Any advice would be great. I just feel as though I’m loosing it.

    Reply

  2. August 20, 2018 at 2:03 am | Posted by Mary

    My 79 year old Mother, so devoted, domesticated, loving and true to her 75 year old husband, who became legally blind from diabetes, 2 years ago, and lost his ability to drive has made my Mother’s life a living hell. His children taking over doctor contacts and have use and access to all their financials, while isolating my Mother, married to him for over 30 years, and treating his children with love and respect. Even sharing holidays with his ex-wife is being abused and belittled by her ailing husband and his children. He had a fall last year, had hip surgery and doctors said he was healed and to start physical therapy. He refused the necessary therapy and is immobile but for no medical reason, choosing to have my Mother take constant care of him as a punishment for some reason. He refuses to walk, go to bathroom and cancels the PT therapist house visits.he yells at her that she should just worry about taking care of him with no regard to her wellbeing and health. He isolates her from her own friends and children, making her afraid to talk on the phone. He is now threatening and declaring that all and money saved through the years is his, and she is worried about spending any money. He gives and gives to his children and puts her children down daily he is draining the life out of her. She is still very beautiful and loves being kind to people. He controls her and accuses her of having affairs when I take her food shopping. Faithful wife throughout their marriage while she endured him cheating and drinking. I do not nor want to speak to or see him, as he hates and puts me down. She lives 4 blocks away. Please any advice because he just wants to take these her health and is slowly killing her. She shaves him, prepares all his food, changes his diapers constantly, gives medicine, shops, and etc., Not any medical reason why he can’t taje care of his own basic needs.

    Reply

  3. July 12, 2018 at 2:19 pm | Posted by Opal Givens

    I'm almost 64, husband 69. He's had several health issues since 2012. More than once he was hanging by a thread, but finally recovered. I have mixed feelings so often! When it seemed he would die, (two different times) I thought I would die as well--and begged God not to take him. He lives, then I end up wholly responsible for his care--from wiping his butt to killing myself trying to help him transfer from wheelchair to chair/toilet, etc. What really gets me is that he acts as if it is nothing! I know he would never do all the things for me if this situation were turned around. We have children that help some (thank God) and they all say they don't know how I do it. I cannot leave home unless someone is here or takes him out. So my big "getaways" are dashing to the grocery store or running trash to the dumpster. WoooHooo! I try to keep a positive outlook and still enjoy his company, but the caregiving takes a toll in so many ways. I cancel my own doctor's appts, don't have the energy to engage in activities that I once enjoyed, as each day is just full of dread and it's hard to enjoy anything when you know he's going to start hollering for help, get me this/that, etc., I think I could stay in bed for the rest of my life and I'd still not have any energy. I feel for everyone here. God help us all.

    Reply

    • July 14, 2018 at 9:53 pm | Posted by linda hunt

      I can relate to your story,I have been total caregiver to my husband for 13 years.I get no help from family.I had 2 hernia surgeries an bad back.Some days dont know if I can do this.I love my husband an 7 years older than him.I am now 75.I feel guilty for my thoughts,do you do that.I read its a normal feeling for caregivers.I feel I am strong but its leaving me.can you tell me some of your thoughts.

      Reply

    • July 15, 2018 at 7:14 am | Posted by Mary Vickery

      Oh my God I could have written that. My husband has Parkinson's I and 2 spinal fusions do to falls that left him in a wheelchair. He is a Veteran so I went on 1 of their programs that help me bring in caregivers. There lies more stress. I have 2 great ones but the third can be more stressful than my husband. They have their own agenda. So I had to let her go and now I am getting very little sleep and finding one is terrible. A lot of no shows. I try to keep a happy face but on the inside I am miserable. No friends anymore. Really no one to talk to. Not a happy time for both of us.

      Reply

    • August 18, 2018 at 8:57 pm | Posted by Holding On

      Wow! I see my situation in your story. My husband had a stroke 10 years ago, he is 11 years my senior (he is 71). I quit working to take care of him. He is totally dependent on me. It seems he doesn't even know whats going on. No concept of how hard I work to keep him home & out of a nursing facility. No help from family. All our "friends" have disappeared. Every day is one long chore. I feel guilty for feeling this way, he didn't deserve this stroke (meaning no drugs, alcohol, smoking). It came out of the blue. Still, I have lost myself. I could go on & on, but, it does no good. This is my lot in life now. "For better or worse. In sickness & in health"...

      Reply

    • August 24, 2018 at 11:25 am | Posted by RIDLEY

      Hey Opal, sorry for your situation. I only had to read a small portion of your paragraph as I am in the same plight. I really don't have any answers for you as I trudge along day to day and have many of the same thoughts' you do. if I can make one quick comment is that I always feel the same way you do about your husband would not do the same for you if it was reversed. Believe me family is family and blood is thicker than water and I think you might be quite surprised as to the lengths he may go to care for you. ive been taking care of my wife with MS for going on 12 years now. I understand your feelings trust me I have them everyday, I have to beat back demons all the time. Good Luck.....get out in Nature , it helps me immensely. TC

      Reply

    • August 28, 2018 at 2:40 pm | Posted by Linda

      Thankyou for putting this on, i’m In the same situation has yourself. I have looked after my husband for 26years he had a brain bleed that left him unable to walk or do anything for himself, I had 2 children at school. Since October last year we found he has got cancer. Last week I was really poorly and I thought he would care about me but no has it’s always about him, I think I had a bit of a breakdown. I feel really bad about the thoughts I have been having. I really don’t want to be with him anymore. It’s so hard I don’t know what to do.

      Reply

  4. May 26, 2018 at 7:16 am | Posted by Kaye Breon

    My husband has had one sickness after the other for 5 years,. He is 67 & I’m 64 he is now on dialysis stage 4 renal failure. He hated going to the dialysis center , which is 45 miles away, so I have been trained & we do his dialysis at home. He had diabetes & I completely blame this on him because he would not take care of hisself. Even now he won’t quit drinking cokes or stop his smoking & other things. And the problems with his health is still one thing after another. There is no transplant in the future because he does smoke & is not healthy enough. I just want a life. I resent him so much. How do you get past this & take care of a love one. I just want to ran away & never come back

    Reply

    • June 19, 2018 at 1:34 pm | Posted by Carla

      Boy can I relate! I'm 68 and my husband is 74. He has multiple health issues--liver cirosis, diabetes, congestive heart. Most of which has been caused by his bad diet, excessive drinking and lack of exercise. Oh, and he has dementia on top of it all. I am still working part time as a library aide, but am thinking it's time to retire because circumstances are changing in my workplace. I am having feelings of resentment towards him, like how could he let this happen to us? I too would just like to run away and hide! He is really cooperative most of the time and appreciative of what I do, but he still likes his sweets and beer. Every time I see him grab a donut, I want to pull it away from him! I do have friends and 4 kids who support me, but in the end his care is all up to me and I feel like I have a toddler again. He is totally dependent on me for everything, and I am so tired of it.

      Reply

  5. May 7, 2018 at 8:20 am | Posted by Mildred E. Toups

    I just went through the whole episode of caring for an injured husband for almost 5 years. I'm 58 and he's 67. I totally understand the feelings of frustration, isolation, anger, and depression. I wasn't trained to be a 27/7/365 nurse, but I had to be. Yes, you feel like you are doing a life sentence for something that isn't your fault. The day in and day out of setting in hospitals, giving home care, taking them to doctor appointments and dealing with running a household can break a person down. Top that off with dealing with lawyers over getting a settlement for the injuries. I survived and so did he...but my marriage of 15 years is over because of the toll it took on our relationship. Now, he's gone, and I'm suffering with illnesses due from the strain that I've had to endure, but where's my help?No where to be found...that's where! Life is so unfair for some!

    Reply

  6. February 10, 2018 at 11:50 pm | Posted by Not so Happy man

    I have cared for my wife presently with stage 4 Parkinson's disease ,I am happy to do so as I know after her Dx some 20 years ago what her eventual fate will be as this disease with no cure progresses ,the worst part is thinking what would happen to her if i suddenly die . I think most caregivers who do it all for their loved ones feel this especially as we have no children ,don't tell me about eldercare laws and eldercare shark attorneys that prey on us to help by manipulations to avoid nursing home costs for a fee of many thousand dollars that may or may actually do the solving of the very problems you consulted them for.What happens now is that I don't know why at my advanced age why I have to feel doubly punished ,by the illness my wife has and by the state or elder care law.It's a mess and I feel as a prisoner for the last 10 years every thing in my present and future years scripted by a weird screen writers hand , I see no hope in attaining some levity .I have participated in caregivers groups in NYC and can mention people taking care of brain diseased loved ones are actually in a worse situation then myself.

    Reply

  7. February 8, 2018 at 3:34 pm | Posted by Rose

    My husband is 71 and I am 66. He had an operation on 10-23-17. It left him incontinent, unable to walk or take care of himself. He is also in excruciating pain and spasticity in one leg. The only way he can travel is by ambulance. He remains in good spirits and his grown children keep in contact with him by phone. However I have MS and adhering to his schedule of meds 24/7 is almost impossible. I am very tired. I truly hate o make this about me. Seeing his suffering is the worst part for me. Having responsibility for everything including his care is taking a toll. Friends and family speak of him like he died rather than his being ill! They kindly try to have me place him in a nursing home. If they could help even a small amount I wouldn't even consider it. They all offer help but they also work and can't be available when I need them.....

    Reply

  8. February 8, 2018 at 2:20 pm | Posted by Klaasje Sasbone

    We ere 45 years married One daughter.My husband got a stroke first he could still walk than he fall down and the ambulance brought hi to a hospital from there to a convalescing home he stayed there for sometime I took him back home he was not able to walk any more i take care of him for over ten years once or twice a week a home care came for a hour to give a bed bath i gave a bed bath each the rest of the week he never complained always that beautiful smile he became bed bound could not turn i did at all At the end a hospice came but not at night.. he was 91 one more month he be 92 i am 83 and i always see his smile.I missed him he passed away in 2016 October. My daughter gave me a rescue dog His name is Ben we go to the dog park we are the best friends i go to the Gym Nifty fifty and hope to live a long time doing thing my self I am happy i was taking care of my husband Love at first side

    Reply

  9. January 6, 2018 at 8:08 pm | Posted by Stressed Out

    I can check off several of these items on the list. My husband has had some kind of medical problem for about 5 years now. As time has gone on, more medical issues have risen. Sometimes I'm not sure if his symptoms are real or psychosomatic. Either way, I'm tired. I'm now 59 and I don't have much of a life. I am not working as one, my husband encourages me not to and when I was working and he was on a medical leave, he made my life miserable with phone calls at work all day long. Now much of his health problems make it better if someone is around in case he has a problem.What makes it very hard is his adult children do not spend time with him. It would be so nice if they would do things with him from time to time so that I could get a break. I would like some help but I'm not getting any. I go through many emotions, anger, frustration, guilt, sadness. . . There's no one meeting my needs. . .

    Reply

    • February 8, 2018 at 12:55 pm | Posted by w m wentzel

      I am going through and feeling the same thing. It is very hard. I retired early at 58 to take care of my boyfriend. Nobody helps out but sure has a lot to say. I have not gotten a break in a year. My social life is gone and my life exists around caring for him. He does not want to go anywhere or do anything to try to get better. We are not married but have been friends for 18 years. He does not want to get up out of bed till after 2pm and then eats and goes back to sleep. Everyone saysnot to let him sleep but he gets ugly if I bug him. My heart goes out to you

      Reply

    • April 10, 2018 at 1:38 pm | Posted by Dee

      I'm 45 my husband is 48 and has been sick with multiple illnesses since 2010. Today I'm just tired and feeling like giving up. I work and take care of him - this is my life.

      Reply

      • August 31, 2018 at 7:12 pm | Posted by Wendi

        My husband and I are both 47. After losing our home and business we moved to Magalia Ca. He had a hemorrhagic brain stem stroke 3 months ago on the day we were moving into a fixer upper owned by his mother. He was going to fix up the house and sell it and we were going to buy a ranch in Oregon. I have been his caregiver 24/7 with one night off which happened by accident . He is mentally there but Physically has to relearn everything, he has double vision and ataxia, drinks nectar thick fluids. I have physical issues of my own due to a car accident, so we both go to PT. He says he doesn’t get a day off so why should I. He is very emotional and cries a lot, complaining he can’t do this for much longer. He panicks if I don’t meet his needs immediately. He is in a wheelchair and depends on me for all his emotions and physical needs. My alcoholic daughter moved into our trailer in the back yard. She keeps the house clean for me. I can’t physically do it all. This is our life now. We don’t know for sure if he will get better, but I read that he has a pretty good shot. His Parents are in their 70’s. His Dad is coming next week and I am actually going to leave. I am not sure where I will go, but I need to get away in order to save my sanity!!!!

        Reply

  10. November 26, 2017 at 1:32 am | Posted by Shay

    I’m 18 years old and I’m a caregiver to my husband who is 37 years old who is also in a wheelchair with muscular atrophy. I know exactly how you feel. I love him to pieces but the fianacial situation of his family is lingering on depressing and they expect me to keep the house up like a house wife when I’m a full time student studying at university. It’s incredibly difficult and has definitely taken blows to my self esteem. He always tries his best to be an amazing boyfriend but I do miss the days of being carefree and not having to think so much about somebody else. You need to focus on your own health, health is wealth. Fix the issue with your jaw and start going to the spa and getting your nails done and spoiling yourself rotten. Self love is the best love. Also practice mindfulness by meditating, it’ll bring your stress levels down. Good luck hun, things are going to get better. If they don’t you need to leave him for a more fulfilling relationship.

    Reply

  11. October 11, 2017 at 12:57 am | Posted by Donna

    I exceed every thing on this list thank God I found this I feel so alone . I don't even know where to start Im 26 my husband is 35 . He is in a wheelchair with muscular dystrophy. I have have a six year old son from a previous marriage. That I left after years of abuse. I have very little family.He has a large family. Im also disabled from a TBI but that doesn't matter much because I'm not him. His large family uses me for my money and for 24_7 care for him. I had to have jaw surgery I had to ride the bus because nobody would take me. I have no support. My jaw won't heal. I didn't even get to sleep after surgery I was cooking dinner I could not even eat and I" had to get off my lazy ass and do laundry because nobody here is my maid. If I wanted help with my son I should have never had him.'" but when I stand up for myself then I'm evil Donna who verbally abuses the poor little man in the wheelchair I feel so trapped and alone I'm so depressed im so lost . I don't know what to do anymore. Oh yeah did i mention he talked me into moving out of my house and living in a literal shed because we do I have to carry him outside and sponge bathe him in a makeshift tub his brother made from the hose..but it's not his fault it is all he could afford since I didn't buy him an apartment.. everything is my responsibility and everything is my fault I love him but I can't live like this forever.. I don't know how to make it better. I love him but he wants to live like this. I want to take care of him but this is ridiculous! It's killing me I had a massive infection in my jaw and I couldn't get him to take me to the hospital(he even screamed at me and kicked me out) and his mom refused to take me because I didn't have gas money luckily my grandparents took me and i didn't die.. but it's my in laws explained to me it's my ex husband's fault because he didn't give me gas money and the only reason all this upset s me is because I must want him back. Wtf? Right.. help me.. I'm in so much physical and emotional pain..

    Reply

  12. October 11, 2017 at 12:45 am | Posted by Donna

    I exceed every thing on this list thank God I found this I feel so alone . I don't even know where to start Im 26 my husband is 35 . He is in a wheelchair with muscular dystrophy. I have have a six year old son from a previous marriage. That I left after years of abuse. I have very little family.He has a large family. Im also disabled from a TBI but that doesn't matter much because I'm not him. His large family uses me for my money and for 24_7 care for him. I had to have jaw surgery I had to ride the bus because nobody would take me. I have no support. My jaw won't heal. I didn't even get to sleep after surgery I was cooking dinner I could not even eat and I" had to get off my lazy ass and do laundry because nobody here is my maid. If I wanted help with my son I should have never had him.'" but when I stand up for myself then I'm evil Donna who verbally abuses the poor little man in the wheelchair I feel so trapped and alone I'm so depressed im so lost . I don't know what to do anymore. Oh yeah did i mention he talked me into moving out of my house and living in a literal shed because we do I have to carry him outside and sponge bathe him in a makeshift tub his brother made from the hose..but it's not his fault it is all he could afford since I didn't buy him an apartment.. everything is my responsibility and everything is my fault I love him but I can't live like this forever.. I don't know how to make it better. I love him but he wants to live like this. I want to take care of him but this is ridiculous! It's killing me I had a massive infection in my jaw and I couldn't get him to take me to the hospital(he even screamed at me and kicked me out) and his mom refused to take me because I didn't have gas money luckily my grandparents took me and i didn't die.. but it's my in laws explained to me it's my ex husband's fault because he didn't give me gas money and the only reason all this upset s me is because I must want him back. Wtf? Right.. help me..

    Reply

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