For many couples who get married, the phrase “in sickness and in health” is an important part of their vows. Over the course of a marriage, almost everyone suffers through some colds, perhaps some minor surgeries, or even a serious health scare or two. Many couples help each other through these bouts and move on with their lives. But what happens when a memory-robbing illness such as dementia or Alzheimer’s strikes? This can significantly change the dynamic in a relationship, especially when someone is expected to live for more than a few years. These changes are stressful for both the caregiver-partner, and the person suffering with the disease. Let’s look at some symptoms, impacts, and resources for caregivers when a beloved spouse becomes a patient instead of a partner.
What are some of the symptoms of cognitive illnesses like dementia or Alzheimer’s?
Dementia is a broad term that describes decreases in cognitive ability that are not a normal part of aging. While most people occasionally forget something or get absent-minded, dementias typically get worse over time, and are not curable (such as Alzheimer’s, which is a subset of dementia). Dementias can be manifested in many different ways that can be painful for the person and their partner alike. Here are some examples:
- Short-term memory fades, and a person may not remember or recognize their partner or other family members
- A person may have emotional or violent outbursts that are uncharacteristic
- During moments of lucidity, someone with dementia may realize that they are losing touch with reality, causing anxiety, stress, or depression
What are the impacts to lifelong partners who now become caregivers?
Becoming a full- or part-time caregiver is a task that can be frustrating, rewarding, exhausting, fulfilling, and cause a whole range of other emotions. These characteristics are amplified when it’s your life partner who is suffering from a memory-robbing illness. Partners who become caregivers might mourn the life they previously had, and the life they hoped to have with their spouse. Rather than having an equal, one partner may become emotionally and physically dependent, while the other must provide for both people’s needs. It can also be incredibly painful when your partner no longer recognizes you, or doesn’t remember the life you once shared together. This can have a significant impact on spouses and grown children alike. Aside from the emotional turmoil, the time and effort required to care for another can be physically and financially draining.
What are some resources for people who did not expect to become full-time caregivers?
Whether caregiving happens suddenly (after a stroke, for instance) or gradually, it’s easy to get in over your head. Here are some different resources for caregivers that may help:
- Remembering to take care of yourself is a must. Taking a break to recharge batteries is good for a person’s physical, emotional, and psychological health. Here are 10 ways for caregivers to meet their own needs as well.
- Knowing when to ask for help from friends and family is an important step. Here are four signs that geriatric care management is appropriate.
- Find a support group in your area to connect with other family caregivers that may be having similar experiences. Start with Caregiver Connect.
- Consider different types of in home care that can relieve some of the pressure of caregiving full-time. It may sound intimidating to look into hiring help, so if you want to learn more, click the button below to download our free ebook (How to Hire an Agency for In Home Care).
To learn more about resources for caregivers and how to get quality care for loved ones, please visit the rest of our site, and please contact us with any questions!