Her Mentor Center: Caregiving and Marital Stress
Relationships: Caring for a Sick Parent, your Marriage and Yourself
The challenging tasks of caring for a sick parent can add stress to your relationship. There are no easy answers because what your marriage needs most – time together – is probably in very short supply. Traditionally, when women were homemakers, the caretaking job naturally fell to them. With so many women in the workforce today, there just aren’t enough loving arms to go around. What follows are some tips to help bring more balance to your hectic life:
1. Keep the communications with your partner wide open.
As you take on more responsibility for your parent, gather information from the Internet and community resources – and have a very honest conversation with your partner about the options. Discuss how you both feel about what’s going on and make a commitment to working out the problems together.
2. If you make the decision to have your ailing parent move in, talk with your partner.
Communicate about the division of labor, the concrete plans, and expectations — as well as the potential consequences. Of course, the needs and desires of your mom or dad must also be considered. Seeing a therapist or a gerontologist together will ensure that every member of the family has a platform and is heard.
3. It is important to engage the help of siblings on a regular basis.
Decide whom you will enlist and what you will ask of them — staying overnight so you and your partner can have time together or driving your mom to her doctors’ appointments so you won’t have to take time off work. Ongoing support from your children will make it easier on you and teach them some life lessons.
4. Be aware of your own vulnerability to the emotional fallout.
Realistically evaluate what you can do, especially if the situation is long term. Whether you’re angry, frustrated or sad, let go of your negative feelings. Guilt is the most prevalent emotion of caregivers who worry that they should be doing more. Be aware that you’re only human and you are doing your best.
5. Remember to conserve your inner resources.
Solitude itself provides a chance to emotionally reconnect with your own needs. Honor yourself by setting limits and developing strategies to manage the stress. Give yourself the gift of a massage or lunch with a friend. Rejuvenate your spirits – soak in a hot tub, curl up with a good book, watch a beautiful sunrise.
6. Spending time with your partner is an emotional investment that will pay dividends to your marriage.
If there isn’t time for a weekly date night, take a short walk in the neighborhood and catch up with each other a couple of times a week. Allow yourself the rare gift of laughter — watch the comedy channel or find humor in the daily antics of family life. Be playful and reignite romance by sharing a candlelight dinner or gazing at a star-filled sky. Time limited activities like these can increase intimacy and brighten your general outlook.
Be sure to pause and take in the love and gratitude of your ill parent. And give yourself credit for all that you do. Keeping all the balls in the air is difficult, but your well being is paramount if your marriage is going to not only survive but thrive.