When couples recite their vows and say, “in sickness and in health,” it can be decades before those words ever truly sink in. While most people imagine a caregiver as a child caring for an aging parent, it’s often a spouse who assumes that role. Seeing a loved one’s health and independence diminish is difficult no matter your relation to them but watching that happen to your life partner can be especially difficult. Caring for an aging spouse causes a trifecta of challenges: emotional, physical, and social.
The emotional toll
The emotional impact is often the hardest to overcome. When an individual experiences much of their adult life viewing their spouse as an equal partner, it can be jarring when that relationship suddenly changes. As one spouse becomes more dependent on their husband or wife for everyday needs, the able spouse can feel like they’re losing a partner. If dementia or Alzheimer’s disease is involved, those feelings may intensify significantly. It’s normal for them to feel as if they’re mourning their relationship as they once knew it. At the same time, the stress of a new role as a fulltime caregiver can add to brewing emotional turmoil, causing caregivers to feel resentment, anxiety, and even depression.
The physical challenges of caring for an aging spouse manifest in multiple ways. A wife caring for her husband may not be able to help her husband move around their home due to a difference in size or weight. The same can hold true in the other direction, especially if the caregiver’s physical ability and health is not in tip-top shape. In addition, when one partner loses the ability to care for themselves, it also means they lose the ability to care for their home. As a result, the spouse who becomes the caregiver will see their daily duties and chores double overnight. The physical strain of having to keep up with the yard, clean the house, and help their aging loved one with simple tasks like getting dressed, showering, and using the restroom can be extremely tiring and harmful to their own physical health.
Finally, caring for an aging spouse can cause social challenges. For couples who are used to an active lifestyle that involves traveling and plenty of social engagements, it can be difficult to accept when one spouse is no longer able to participate, and a normally busy social calendar begins to clear. The spouse that is being cared for may feel guilt or embarrassment at their new relationship dynamic, and it can be difficult to explain the situation to friends who are at a different stage in their aging journey.
A solution: Aging together with assistance
When it comes to providing support for an aging spouse, there’s no right or wrong way to go about it. In many cases, a couple’s relationship can benefit greatly from having additional help so that one partner isn’t the primary caregiver for the other. An independent living facility can be a great option for couples who have come to this crossroads. At St. Martin’s in the Pines, couples can get the assistance they need to focus on maintaining a healthy, lifelong relationship in sickness and in health.
When it comes to selecting a senior living community for couples, options and flexibility are critical components to consider. Learn more about how St. Martin’s in the Pines accommodates joint senior living with our massive variety of accommodation styles, levels of care, and activities and events. Schedule a tour with us today by clicking here.