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For many adults on the cusp of retirement, providing care for a child as well as a parent or senior loved one is a very real scenario. The average age of a family caregiver is 49.2 years old and more often than not, they are providing on average 24.4 hours per week of care for a family member, according to the Family Caregiver Alliance. In addition to these “Sandwich Generation” caregiver responsibilities, most caregivers are also married or in committed relationships.
Maintaining a happy and healthy relationship is difficult enough, but add in the energy, responsibilities and time spent caregiving and the demands have the potential to cause serious trouble in a relationship.
Use the following tips to maintain a solid relationship with your spouse while caregiving:
It is easy to forget to acknowledge the accomplishments of others when you are feeling overwhelmed. Spouses especially have the tendency to turn on each other in times of stress, rather than towards each other. This Psychology Today article suggests that couples make a ritual of beginning and ending each day by acknowledging something their partner did to contribute to the relationship: “Acknowledgment is not an expensive commodity, but we are often stingy with it… this simple act of positive attention is what people need most — even more than expressions of love — to function well.” By aligning yourselves on the same side and vocalizing your appreciation, you can make even the toughest days and situations as a caregiver more manageable.
With the busyness of day-to-day life, carving out alone-time is difficult for most busy couples; however, it is especially challenging for those with caregiving responsibilities. Psychology Today elaborates: “by the end of a long day, you both may just be too tired or too pre-occupied with other things to have the energy for any kind of intimate communication…” Recognizing the need to prioritize alone time together is a great first step in reinvesting in your relationship. Make a commitment to accept help from family, friends and professional respite care providers to assist with caregiving duties in order to focus on just the two of you.
You know the old phrase “two heads are better than one” – this is especially true in the context of providing care for a parent or senior loved one. It is important for a couple to be on the same page from the very early stages of taking on caregiving responsibilities and work as a team to make decisions, divide tasks and prioritize balance. Resentments can fester when one partner feels that they are being neglected, or that they are shouldering the bulk of responsibilities alone.
Working together to come up with a plan or schedule to address day-to-day household tasks, as well as caregiving tasks will help to ensure you are both on the same page and have a clear understanding of what is expected from each of you.
When issues arise (as they most definitely will) couples with a team approach will have more success in hammering out problems together.
By Kim Fowler