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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. June 26, 2019 at 2:39 pm | Posted by Elaine

    How about the guilt I feel with my spouse taking care of me. I am in a wheelchair.. .due to pinched nerve. Still take care of all paperwork with our business. Never get a thank u. I thank him over and over. Tired of hearing about the caregivers. Try to find fun for both of u. Set times u can get out. Stop escaping. Unfair reviews. Where is the view from the other side. Grow up, and thank god for your good health once in a it Out!


  2. June 20, 2019 at 2:20 pm | Posted by Jerry

    I am 58 and my wife of 29 yrs is 75. She was diagnosed with parkinson around spring of 2017.Since that time she has progressively gotten worse, I have tried asking for help from family and friends but fill guilty because I made that VOW. They have extremely busy lives so I quit my job so I can try and take care of her 24/7. They all seem now to resent me when I ask for a few hours of relief around the house and not in public because she can fall so easy. Someday I think that she would be better taken of if I just walk out in the middle of the night or walk to the closet and finish it all. I know that this is selfish but man I need some relief. I blow up over little things and the next thing is I want to hold and protect her.. don't know what next.


  3. June 17, 2019 at 10:23 pm | Posted by Boy

    I have a boyfriend for 11 years now we are engaged for almost 2 years now. In our relationship we was only dating for 3 years in 2012 he got sick with end stage kidney failure I was staying with him for 2 weeks in the hospital none of his family was there to help me with him which they only at the time lived 30 minutes away by walking 5 minutes by driving since before he was abusive hitting me calling me names even treating my daughter at the time 6 years old wrong hitting he behind my back my daughter was so afraid of him she didn’t tell me until he got sick I felt like I couldn’t leave him because he was sick and had no one to care for since 2012 he was good walking doing dialysis until he cheated on my when I found out he had to get a pacemaker put in his heart again none of his family there just me and my daughter okay fine I was strong working being a mom holding the house down and being a care giver fast forward he broke both his patella tendinitis got surgery was in the hospital for a week had to stay at his mothers house now we just live not even a block away from his family everyone is in the same location where all you have to do is walk to the next building again even staying at his mothers house he wasn’t getting food or help I had to always leave the house to bring him something to eat bath him and keep him company go to dialysis at 4 am to him in the chair agin on one help me only my daughter a year later he had to get hip surgery this time his family didn’t even call or went to see him at all he was in the hospital for almost 2 months everyday my daughter and I went to the hospital after this I have had it with his family mind you I even got nasty looks from his family for no reason so at this point I was done with his family I even didn’t want him talking to them because you have no idea how hard it is to do everything on my own it’s not fair that my daughter has to help when he has a son of his own that didn’t even go see him too or help after 4 months he wasn’t taking to his family no one was even trying to reach out to him so now I am on bitch mode with them but now from my friend I get that’s my family they don’t have to do for me but here I am back hurting lack of see with my own health problem at the age of 31 helping him out and he turns and say that to me so I let it go whatever that’s not my family doing it to me but I get so upset with him that I stop talking to him because it’s not fair my daughter and I have to live this way while his family is just living life I get so mad that I cry why me why did I have to put my daughter that is now 16 into this mess. He doesn’t understand that if his family is not there for him why talk to them am I wrong for being upset and telling him this and still since his hip surgery in 2018 he has not walked in a wheelchair I help him bath take him to the doctors he only goes outside on dialysis days having family that live in a building with a ramp where he can roll down with an empty room didn’t even give a helping hand. I feel depressed sad and hate my life I have no friends because I let him control me when I was 21 my heart is heavy and I want to run away but feel guilty if I leave I see all these stories and I don’t know how some people deal with it I just wanna run can anyone give me advice


  4. June 15, 2019 at 2:42 pm | Posted by Pamela Whiteley

    I left my dying husband of 21 years after 6 years of full time 24/7 for Parkinson’s. I was depressed and begged him to hire help 2 nights a week so I could sleep. He said no. We had a prenup and he had 9 million. I had nothing. The day I left his daughter hired 4 people to take my place. She hates me but got the 9 million. My blood pressure went from 180/118 to normal after 2 months away from him.No one cared about helping me. For 2 years I begged doctors, therapists, nurses, counselors, and his daughter. Only my husband could hire me help but he always said “no, you are lucky to live in my house.” He felt his millions made me his slave.How could I leave my husband with just one year left to live? Because his selfishness was killing me.P J WHITELEY


  5. June 1, 2019 at 9:02 pm | Posted by Lynn G

    I'm 54 and I'm taking care of my spouse that's 62. Multiple health problems and is starting to lose his memory especially short term. He started going downhill a few years after we got married. I NEVER ever thought I would be in this situation at this age. It's so hard cause I'm lucky to even be able to go to the store. I'm not able to visit family or friends and nobody visits us because it's hard to see him the way he is. It's really hard when you can't even see your grandbabies and great grandkids. I get angry when I shouldn't, I blame him and there's nothing he can do about it. It's so hard watching the love of your life suffer. He's my second husband and my last. I already battled my own demons with depression, anxiety and PTSD but now it's worse. I get sick more and don't sleep well cause when he has a bad day he can't sleep. I have to stay awake and make sure he doesn't fall and make sure he gets his meds correctly. I wish I knew why the Lord put me on this path especially when I can't see family but we are not supposed to ask why. I'm sure one day I'll know why. I just don't know how much more I can handle. I say that but yet I know I'll NEVER stop cause that's the type of person I am. Just wish there was an easy button.


    • July 17, 2019 at 11:19 pm | Posted by Sharon Niebrugge

      Hi Lynn I am in a similar situation, my husband had surgery to remove a blood clot from his large intestine . He was in the hospital for 59 days sent him to rehab place he was there 2 weeks , now home. Like you his family lives 3 miles & other son 7 hours. Oldest son has come to see him offer's help, he has work &2 kids 1 has autism. He had 2nd surgery May his lower intestines began hurting the surgeon took more out. home now Idkw will happen next we see the surgeon 8.5.19 then go from there. I'm very tired I work full time & OT I help him w/shopping, food reminding him to drink water, anyways I'm feeling everyone of those above. Ty for listening


  6. May 29, 2019 at 9:35 am | Posted by Marcel Leatham

    I am home taking care of my wife the past 3years am I the spouse entitled for any payments from the can they assist me


  7. 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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