Good relationships take work on the parts of both people involved under the best of circumstances.  What happens when one of the partners becomes seriously ill or will need help for more than six months? It may be from a stroke, cancer, traumatic brain injury, mental health/psychiatric disorders, spinal cord injuries, dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, etc. What happens when relationship challenges rear their ugly head? Will you address it? Will you ignore it? Will you stuff your feelings way down deep? Will you deal with it in a healthy way? Decisions, decisions, decisions. January 25, 2023

Spousal Caregiver Challenges

Challenges arise when the changes come. There will be changes. No one can tell you when they will come or what they may be. Deal with them as they come. You can stuff your feelings, but eventually, they will come out. It won’t be in a good way, either. Acceptance is hard. Accepting things as they are, right now is hard. We have to give ourselves grace for every moment. Learning about their chronic health condition will help you to understand what is happening. Yes, I know there is usually more than one. Accurate information about what is happening and what will come will help you be more prepared to handle situations.

The challenges that cause the most aggravation are:

    1. Toileting and incontinence issues
    1. Showering/Bathing
    1. Eating out
    1. Repetitive questions
    1. Relationship strain
    1. Fatigue
    1. Guilt
Learning healthy ways to cope will help in this journey. Yes, it will be a journey. You will have good times, bad times and okay times.

Things you can do to help yourself destress:

    1. Find things you can do together
    1. Accept that you are doing your best
    1. Breathe, just deep breathe
    1. Have someone you can talk to and vent to
    1. Go for a walk/run
    1. Play a sport
    1. Meet up with friends for lunch
    1. Have a massage
    1. Tell others what you need, no one is a mind reader
    1. Keep your own doctor appointments
    1. Eat for nutritional needs
    1. Sleep and rest
    1. Learn to become more resilient (yes, you can do that)

Feel Your Feelings

It is okay to feel your feelings. It is okay to talk about your feelings. It is even okay to not have an answer. It is not okay to act aggressively or become verbally or physically abusive. Physical abuse includes doing things “rougher” than is necessary. Feeling sadness, anger and frustration are normal feelings. It is how you handle those feelings that make the difference between a healthy relationship and an unhealthy or abusive relationship. Don’t bottle up your feelings, you will eventually explode.

Warning Signs that you Need Help:

    1. Your own health is in decline
    1. You find yourself anxious and irritable
    1. You are relying more on alcohol or other drugs
    1. You are becoming withdrawn
    1. Smoking or eating more
    1. Overreacting to minor nuisances
    1. You are feeling increasingly resentful
    1. You are constantly exhausted even when you are resting & sleeping
    1. You are beginning to feel helpless or hopeless
    1. Backaches, headaches, stomachaches or other physical problems

Caregiving does have to be a burden

Caregiving doesn’t always have to be bad or feel like a chore. In fact, a lot of folks find themselves okay with being their spouses’ caregivers. Learn what you need to do for yourself so that you are a more resilient caregiver. Find three things that you will do each day for yourself. Pat