After posting a blog on the subject of managing Love and Caregiving, I was contacted by Samantha Stein, Online Content Manger for the Association for Long Term Care Planning, who expressed interest in sharing her recent article on my blog. Upon reading it, I thought it would be beneficial to share some of her tips on balancing marriage and caring for a parent. Below are the key points of her article. If you would like to read the full article, feel free to read it here.
Senior Care: Balancing Marriage and Caring for a Parent
By Samantha Stein
Caregiving can strengthen the bonds of relationships within the family. It can bridge gaps and heal decades-long conflicts through the connections that form during the care. However, it can also cause strains within the family. Caregivers may be put in a tough spot when the stress of their tasks takes its toll on their relationships and marriage. It may even reach a point where it feels like you have to make a choice between your partner and your aging parent. Understandably, no one wants to be put in a position such as that. But how can you avoid it? You can start by identifying the roots.
Frustration and Fatigue - Providing care to an aging loved one can be time-consuming and energy-draining. There will be days when you will feel as if everything is piling up and you will feel overwhelmed. It will feel like nothing is going right or as planned and you feel frustrated and exhausted by it all. When this happens, it can be too easy to turn to you partner and just release all those negative emotions on him or her. Frustration and fatigue, if not vented out the right way, can be the foundation of a very unhappy environment. It can cause friction in marriages and can damage relationships.
Lack of Intimacy - Intimacy is one of the key elements that strengthen relationships and marriages, and the lack of it can cause a severe blow. Individuals have shared that caregiving has had a negative impact on their sexual relationship. Caring for a parent, managing your household, and co-parenting your children can be difficult to manage. Add senior care to that, and it surely leaves little room for any sort of intimacy.
Financial Burden - Various articles, such as these posts by Investopedia and Shaw Family Law PC, cite financial strains and extended families among the top causes of divorce in the United States. When a parent ends up needing care, adult children often feel obligated to step up and provide the help that they need. It almost feels like second nature to many.
However, providing senior care, especially when the care recipient does not have long term care coverage, can put a significant dent on any couple’s finances. Care services in the country have become too expensive for many to afford. And if you and your partner are still in the process of saving for your retirement, then adding senior care costs can surely make the situation more challenging.
Addressing the Issues
Like any roadblock, these issues ought to be addressed together. These situations are exactly the right moments when communication between partners will be truly tested. It is important to be honest about concerns, no matter how ridiculous they may seem. It is also necessary to have an open mind when dealing with these instances as they can easily put a damper on your relationship.
Validate and Address Emotional and Mental Stress - Emotional and mental stress can come to both the caregiver and the spouse. And often, whoever experiences it feels as if these reactions are selfish. Bear in mind that having these feelings and going through these struggles do not make you less of a partner or a person. Whatever your role is in the equation, these emotions are real issues that need to be addressed. Talk about it with your partner, and if necessary, seek professional help.
Prioritize Your Spouse - The caregiver and the spouse ought to find ways to show that they prioritize their partners, even if it means leaving them alone for a time. Often, some people need their space to recollect their thoughts and their bearings. Being there for your partner, especially when they are dealing with all that comes with caring for a loved one, could mean providing them with the space that they need to adjust to stresses on their own.
However, time together is also vital. Remember that having time for each other does not necessarily have to be extravagant or expensive. Find enjoyment in the little things. Love does not always have to be shown in big gestures. Sometimes, it is the seemingly insignificant acts of love –the ones that we often take advantage of—are the ones that mean the most. What matters is that you show your appreciation for each other, and that you do activities that help strengthen your bond.
Find Support Online - So many individuals are in the same boat. They face similar challenges and struggle with identical issues. Sometimes, these people might even understand you on a level that your significant other might struggle with. So many caregivers have found support and guidance through online communities, and it would be all right for you to do the same. The communities provide a no-judgment platform where caregivers can share their frustrations and stresses and get the support that they need.
Do you have other recommendations you would like to share regarding balancing marriage and caregiving? Perhaps, you have a question for myself or Ms. Stein. If so, please share them below.
Samantha Stein is an online content manager for ALTCP.org. Her works focus on key information on long term care insurance, finance, elder care, and retirement. In line with the organization’s goal, Samantha creates content that helps raise awareness on the importance of having a comprehensive long term care plan not just for the good of the individual but for the safety of the entire family.
Christine M. Valentin
As a licensed clinical social worker, I help individuals caring for a loved one reduce feelings of anxiety, depression and stress. This blog is meant to share with you, many of the suggestions I recommend to many family caregivers. Sign up to receive them directly.