When Spouses Face Health Challenges
For married couples, or those in a committed relationship, health is an intricate connection. Both partners influence each other’s diet, exercise, stress level and compliance with health care recommendations. Spouses even influence each other’s attitudes about aging, which can have an impact through the years.
When one spouse experiences health challenges, the support of the other spouse can make all the difference in their well-being. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons recently reported that married or partnered patients experience a better outcome after surgery, with fewer complications. Spouses provide both practical and emotional help when their loved one is recovering from an injury or health event, or living with arthritis, dementia, osteoporosis, heart disease, the effects of a stroke, or another chronic condition. A study from Penn State University found that patients with an understanding spouse feel a lower level of physical pain—and this support tends to raise marital satisfaction over time.
Yet providing care can impact the caregiving spouse’s physical and emotional health, financial well-being, career, and overall quality of life. As time passes, chances are that both spouses will face health challenges. As it becomes harder for them to care for each other, they can slip into isolation and depression.
Asking for help
When both spouses need care, most likely they will eventually need care support. The couple may resist accepting help at first, not wanting to alter their lifelong dynamic, or fearing a loss of privacy. When adult children and others try to step in, the couple may protest that these well-meaning loved ones are intruding or trying to control them.
And their adult children, long accustomed to their parents caring for each other, can quickly become overburdened by an increased task load. With today’s smaller families, their own spouse also might be supporting the care needs of older parents. Their careers and their own relationship might suffer, and they’re at risk for caregiver burnout.
It’s time to call in professionals.
Financial advisers can help couples navigate complicated money matters, such as managing assets to pay for care.
Elder law attorneys can help with estate issues, advance directives and guardianships.
Marriage counselors can help couples navigate this new stage of their relationship.
Aging life care professionals (geriatric care managers) can locate and arrange for support services.
Where to live
In some cases, moving to a skilled nursing facility, assisted living community or other supportive living environment is the best choice for one or both spouses. But this can create complications, especially when one spouse requires a higher level of care than the other. Couples may not be able to stay together, even if they live in the same senior living community.
Polls show most couples prefer to age in place, receiving care in their own home, whether that is their long-time house or apartment, a smaller, more accessible place to which they’ve moved, or an independent senior living community. Home modifications can make the home a better fit. Skilled nursing care services can be provided in the home, which relieves spouses from performing emotionally difficult medical care tasks.
Nonmedical in-home care also supports couples who wish to remain in their familiar surroundings. These services preserve the couple’s sense of independence, dignity and self-esteem, allowing them to focus on their relationship as a couple. In-home care services include:
- Personal care, such as toileting and incontinence care, bathing, and shaving, which helps normalize the couple’s time together.
- Transportation to medical appointments, the pharmacy, and out and about to keep the couple active and engaged.
- Housekeeping and laundry to ensure that the home is hygienic and hazard-free.
- Grocery shopping and preparing meals that meet each spouse’s nutritional requirements and special diet.
- Respite care so each spouse can enjoy some “me time.”
- Memory care when one or both spouses are living with Alzheimer’s disease or a related condition.
In-home care preserves the independence and dignity of older couples and the dynamic between parents and adult children. Right at Home caregivers are screened, supervised and trained to meet all the care needs of clients, and provide support for families. Contact us today and ask for a care consultation.