March 10, 2023

5 Ways Spousal Caregivers Can Get Emotional Support

senior couple walking

Spouses of chronically ill individuals are often stressed, overworked and burned out. When you’re caring for a chronically ill spouse, you may experience an enormous amount of stress. And although you might feel isolated as you care for a partner, you are not alone. According to the Well Spouse Association, nearly six million people in the U.S. are caring for an ill or disabled partner.

Taking care of a partner who has been diagnosed with a debilitating illness or chronic condition that might include Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s, or cancer takes its toll in many ways, draining the healthy partner emotionally and physically. Many spousal caregivers have pushed themselves so hard and so long that they aren’t even aware of the ways their responsibilities are dramatically affecting their own health, emotional well-being, and even their social life. The impacts can be enormous and far-reaching.

If you’re a spousal caregiver, your list of caretaking tasks is likely long – providing healthy meals, administering medications, ensuring they consistently see their doctors regularly, and carefully monitoring day to day changes. Caregiving is difficult on many levels, and it’s important to know that you don’t have to go it alone, and you can get help facing all of the challenges. 

A first step is understanding how your responsibilities are impacting “you”. For example, caregivers may feel guilt, sadness, anger and isolation, which can lead to depression. The Alzheimer’s Association explains how depression can affect different people in different ways, and at different times. Some signs and symptoms of depression include:

  • Feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness or guilt
  • Becoming easily agitated or frustrated
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Fatigue or loss of energy
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in usual activities
  • Difficulty thinking or concentrating
  • Changes in appetite and weight
  • Thoughts of death, dying or suicide
  • Physical symptoms that might include headaches and digestive issues

If you recognize yourself in these symptoms, you don’t have to suffer alone. Here are five ways you can get the support you need to help you feel less overwhelmed and better able to combat depression. 

Consult with a doctor. Some medications have side effects that can mimic the symptoms of depression so your doctor may need to adjust your prescriptions. In addition, your physician may recommend specific medication to help you combat depression.

Go for counseling. Your physician may refer you to a mental health professional to help treat your depression. One technique is learning coping skills with talk therapy. 

Seek out family and friends. Often, caregivers are reluctant to accept offers of help, believing they can handle the responsibilities on their own. Reaching out to family and friends for assistance with errands, transportation to doctors’ offices, and even just a caring conversation can go a long way.

Look for ways to streamline tasks. Take a good look at your long list of responsibilities. Are there some tasks that you can do more efficiently? For instance, your partner may take many medications each day. Opting for an online pharmacy that delivers prescription medications like PersonalRX can eliminate recurrent trips to the local drug store. PersonalRX offers custom-made dosage packs of your partner’s prescriptions, clearly labeled for time of day, that makes it easy for you to administer medication – or enable your partner to independently take pills on his or her own.

Seek outside support. Look for respite services and caregiver support groups in your community, or turn to online resources. The Well Spouse Association offers a variety of online resources, including support groups, conferences, and webinars and newsletters, all designed to help partners and spouses deal with their caregiving challenges.  

Spousal caregiving is a 24/7 effort which impacts the caregiver as much as the patient. Caregivers can only be as effective as their physical and mental health allows. We hope these tips on how to find support will make this labor of love a little easier.

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