How to protect your marriage when you are a family caregiver

Sunrise Senior Living  |  August 25, 2017

Every marriage has its own set of circumstances, and none is challenge-free. 

When one of you takes on the role of primary caregiver for a senior loved one, your marriage can feel the strain.

Many caregivers have jam-packed schedules. It often means they don’t have much free time for themselves. That alone is enough to put a strain on a marriage. Then there’s the added stress, the financial uncertainty, and the emotional fallout of coping with an aging parent—especially if there are health concerns in the mix.

Nevertheless, many couples find ways to survive the caregiving years.

There are ways to protect your marriage when one of you is a caregiver. Like every other relationship challenge you face, you have to work at it.

Some Practical Steps for Caregivers to Take

Before your caregiving role puts too much of a strain on your relationship, take a moment to read these words of advice. As you’ll see, the steps to take aren’t complicated. But they do take commitment.

1. Take Stock of the Situation

The first step is accepting how caregiving is affecting your relationship. If you haven’t noticed, your spouse probably has.

Secondly, at the end of the day, you’re probably not as keen to do housework, go grocery shopping, do yard work, or perform other chores you may already be handling for your senior loved one. That can cause tension.

Third, have you noticed that you feel fatigued more often, now that you’re a caregiver? That has a tremendous effect on your relationship. And, as we all know, fuses get awfully short when we are tired. Tension can fill the air pretty quickly under these circumstances.

2. Make Your Spouse a Priority

It’s easy to get all wrapped up in the urgency of day-to-day needs of your senior loved one. No matter what, your marriage should be a priority. Find a way to carve out time to talk to your spouse, do things together, and plan small special events for just the two of you to keep things special.

3. Draw Upon the Resources You Have: Family & Professionals

Caregiving should be shared. So when others offer to help, say “yes!” Then jump on the chance to give yourself a break. You could use the time to recharge or spend time with your spouse.

There are also paid home care professionals who can help. For example, home care companions can help with doctor’s appointments and other errands. This leaves you more time to keep your life (and your marriage) on a healthy track.

4. Make Use of Other Helpful Resources Available to You

The restorative power of time off can work wonders for caregivers and their spouses. Taking a trip together to someplace different than you’ve ever been before can make the world seem bright and new again. That can help restore your bonds and renew your energy. Even a ‘staycation’ where you’re not responsible for anyone but yourselves can rejuvenate your marriage.

That’s where respite care can help you. Respite care is a short-term stay in a senior living community that offers caregivers a break from the role of caregiver for a short time. It’s how caregivers can restore their energy, keep their sanity, and focus on their marriage.

5. Recognize the Signs That You’ve Reached the Limit

You and your spouse might come to realize that your role as caregiver is placing too much strain on your marriage. If you’ve tried everything, including getting a break through respite care, it may be time for a change.

Sunrise Senior Living offers all levels of care and service for seniors who want to live fulfilling, safe, and independent lives in a new home. Our senior living counselors can help you understand your options. If you, your spouse, and your senior loved one realize it’s time to make a change, call us at 888-434-4648.