Even if your spouse is fully supportive as you become a caregiver for your ailing mom or dad, the strongest relationships can still be affected by the stress, lack of privacy and financial pressures that come with caregiving.
Here are four ways to make sure your marriage stays strong while you take on your role as a caregiver.
1. Talk frequently. OK, you’re busy and exhausted, but frequent communication is essential to prevent misunderstandings and resentments from festering. It’s healthy for the caregiver and spouse to express their feelings about practical matters or vent their frustrations about tough situations. Even if there’s no “meeting of the minds,” talking through it will help. Trust each other, rely on your spouse’s advice, and try not to cast blame. Most of all, keep your spouse fully informed and part of the decision making. You are a team, and there is strength in numbers.
2. Have a date night. At least once a month, arrange for one of your siblings or a friend to take care of your parent so the two of you can go out to eat and talk about anything under the sun — except caregiving. Take in a movie or a play, or reconnect with old friends. Remember how you fell in love, got married and hung out with other couples before there were children in the picture? Your current situation is just one chapter along life’s long road.
3. Allow time for your spouse to be alone. Make sure your spouse has quality time with you and time alone as well. Your house may always be abuzz, noisy and full of activity. Give your spouse the space to think and relax. Make sure the spouse has time for his or her own activities, including exercise and time with friends.
4. Stay alert for signs of depression. Studies show that caregiving can strain a marriage as the caregiver tries to do too much and the spouse feels neglected and burdened. Watch for feelings of sadness or emptiness, and a loss of interest in activities, including sex. Talk with your spouse about his or her feelings. If your spouse can’t shake it, confide in close friends or seek professional help to get over the hump.