Nearly 40 percent of seniors have at least one disability. Nearly 1 in 10 adults over the age of 65 are living with a diagnosis of dementia. The statistics are sobering, but convey little meaning until they affect you. Whether you’ve lived a long life together or are newlyweds pursuing a second — or third or fourth act, caring for an ailing spouse can be heartbreaking. Many people who care for their spouses feel obligated to do it all on their own. That’s a recipe for burnout, resentment, and exhaustion. Evaluating senior living options can give both of you the help and support you need and offer stress relief that allows you to enjoy your relationship once again.
How Caregiving Affects Caregivers
Caregiving often begins as just a few lifestyle changes here and there — going out less, supporting your spouse more, doing more driving. Over time, this trickle can turn into a flood. You might not even realize how much your life has changed until you pause to reflect on your past.
As you focus on caring for an ailing spouse, it’s easy to forget about your own well-being. Indeed, thinking about what you need might even feel selfish. Yet to provide quality care for your spouse, you must also take care of yourself. Caregiver stress is real. Caregivers are more vulnerable to a number of health issues, including:
- Depression and anxiety
- Chronic health issues
- Chronic pain
- Substance abuse
Fortunately, not every family caregiver is destined to experience the health consequences of caregiver burnout. With the proper support, including respite care services and senior living options, caregivers can return to feeling their best while enjoying their role as a spouse instead of strictly as a caregiver.
No One Can Do It All
When seniors seek care in assisted living or hospitals, they receive care from an entire team. These are highly trained professionals, and yet none of them attempt to do it on their own. That’s because no one can do it all. Caregiving is intense, exhausting work. There’s no paid time off or vacation. So if people who have spent their lives caring for others know they can’t do it all, what makes you think you can?
The love of a spouse is intense. You’ve built a life together; you know your spouse’s fears, their strengths, and their needs better than anyone. So you might think that you owe it to them to provide them with constant care. But the truth is that if you’re caring for your spouse on your own 24 hours a day, it’s simply impossible for you to do a great job and care for yourself. Something will fall through the cracks.
Don’t allow guilt or obligation to push you into caregiving work that makes you feel exhausted and doesn’t meet your spouse’s needs. It’s OK to ask for help.
How Senior Living Supports Your Spouse
Senior living gives you a break from caregiving by meeting your spouse’s physical needs. Depending on your spouse, this might be as simple as the reassurance that someone will always be there in the event of an emergency. Or, if your spouse needs more intensive care, this could mean 24/7 support in a memory community.
Senior living is about more than just physical support, though. Your spouse is a dynamic, thoughtful person who deserves an engaging and fulfilling existence. Many caregivers find that they can’t offer care while also engaging with a spouse’s heart and mind. It’s just too much. But in senior living, that changes. Your spouse will have access to:
- Quality meals eaten in an engaging setting
- Numerous classes
- Community outings
- Special events such as festivals, dances, and socials
- As many friends as they can manage; a new friend may be just a few steps outside of your loved one’s door
How Senior Living Supports You
Senior living also helps caregivers, and evaluating senior living options based on your budget and your spouse’s needs can ensure you both get the support you need to stay healthy. The Arbor Company, for example, offers support groups that can help you master new skills and better understand your emotions. But senior living isn’t just about getting support; it’s also about reclaiming your relationship.
Many caregivers find that their passionate romantic connection dies a slow death amid the daily grind of caregiving. Get it back by outsourcing the grunt work to someone else. Instead of spending time bathing your loved one, take a relaxing bath yourself and then head out on a date together.
You deserve to feel good and to avoid the complications that can come with caregiver burnout. Senior living can provide you with the peace of mind that your spouse is getting the care and attention they deserve while freeing you up to grab lunch with a friend, see your own doctor regularly, and keep up with errands.
Senior living comes in many forms, from independent options that support healthy seniors to the intensive care of memory and dementia communities. The Arbor Company offers options to suit every senior’s needs. Want to learn more? Check out our “Journey to Senior Living” guide to learn how to evaluate senior living options near you.
This blog post was updated February 2021.