CAREGIVING FOR A MARRIAGE PARTNERSep 22nd, 2014 | By Sharon Shaw Elrod MSW EdD | Category: Senior Moments Blog
Caregivers Help Each Other
The caregiving community is growing rapidly, and caregivers everywhere share their experience and heartaches and joys in an attempt to help make it better for others. The need for caregiving tips and information is as great as the need to share one’s experience with others. In the sharing, we frequently find validation for the emotional part of this journey.
Much has been said and written about caregiving for parents and family friends. The relationship that is sometimes left out is the marriage partner. Caregiving for one’s husband or wife has unusual considerations that are not present in other kinds of situations.
Relationship Change With Caregiving
Lonnie Ali talked with AARP about her caregiving experience with her husband, Muhammed Ali, in June, 2014. She has been her husband’s caretaker for a number of years, and her experience is invaluable for others who are caring for a spouse. She talked candidly about her life. She opened up about how the marriage relationship changes.
“The hardest part for any caregiver, whether it is a child, parent or spouse, is the relationship change. The relationship changes overtime with the illness. Physically, [patients] are not as mobile; they are not able to do things with you like they used to. The medications might affect their cognitive ability. They may not be able to speak as well…that is where you [transition] from a wife or a husband to a care partner or caregiver.” AARP Bulletin, June 2, 2014.
Lonnie Ali highlighted what many who care for spouses already know. On an emotional level, the marriage dies. The legal relationship still exists (on paper, at least) but day to day life is no longer a give and take proposition. The very nature of caregiving is giving. And that giving is hard work, demanding of time, taxing on the feelings… often leaving the caregiver feeling exhausted and lonely. The sustaining emotional relationship that was once characteristic of daily life is gone. The marriage partner has morphed into a different person, frequently a shell of what he/she once was. So much has been lost.
Perhaps the best that a spouse-caregiver can hope for at the time is the knowledge that she/he is doing the right thing, fulfilling the wedding vow of caring for the other until death parts them. Sometimes satisfaction comes in small doses.