Spousal Caregiving: “I’m Not Caregiving, I’m Just Caring for My Spouse”

February 4, 2010 at 3:16 am Leave a comment

My husband reminded me the other day that he wouldn’t necessarily consider himself a caregiver if  (or when) I were become ill. “I love you. I’d do what you need me to do.” That’s sweet, but I think of all the spouses out there who go the distance–and more–for their spouse. We will sacrifice, do without, and even go to the point to where we put our own health in jeopardy for our spouses.

According to the National Alliance for Caregiving, 52 million Americans are providing care for loved ones, and almost 22% of all caregivers who are age 65+ are caring for a spouse. About 62% of all primary caregivers are caring for a spouse.  

And if those spouses are like my husband and not really identifying themselves as a caregiver, that means they’re not reaching out, attending caregiver support groups, reading material, going online and educating themselves about the disease, or about the impact of caregiving on their lives, their relationships, and on their health.

It’s not that spousal caregivers aren’t amazing. They are, especially our guys. I speak to hundreds of caregivers a month and I find that our husbands and sons are thoughtful, considerate, and trying very hard to meet the needs of those they love. But I also find that like any caregiver they grapple with loneliness, isolation, exhaustion…and are plagued with worry and guilt that if something happens to them, they don’t know what will happen to their wives.

Alzheimer’s expounds the dilemma. We don’t want our children, our neighbors, our friends and business associates to “see” what’s happened to our mates. We want to keep their dignity in tact. We don’t want anyone to feel sorry for the strong, intelligent, capable person we know and love. So we hide. We make excuses. We avoid lunches and reunions. We suffer in silence.

As a society, we have to take away the stigma of caregiving and of Alzheimer’s. We, this first geneartion to be hit with these staggering numbers have to be williung to step up and speak out. We have to view it as a disease, that’s all. We can still celebrate the soul and spirit of loved ones. We can laugh with them, laugh at life and all it throws at us, and laugh about the disease–to take away the sting.

We must defy the urge to cower, or to go it alone. As humbling and vulnerable as Alzheimer’s can make us feel–as spouses or as persons with the disease–it also reminds us how very much we need our communities, our faith, our families, and our friends.

Entry filed under: brain fitness, caring for parents, elder care, family caregiving.

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This Blog

Hi, I'm Carol O'Dell. This blog will include stories and lessons I've learned while caring for my mom, and now as I speak to caregivers around the country. I hope to offer suggestions, ideas and insights that will help others.

While this blog is supported by Dakim Brain Fitness, I’m not blogging to promote the Dakim company or products. Instead, I’m writing about how caring and being cared for affects your life and your family. My hope is that this blog gives you a place to learn, reflect, gain new perspective to make it another day.

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