Though the technical aspects of caregiving, which includes tasks such as administering medication or escorting to medical appointments, are frequently top-of-mind for caregivers, a much less discussed issue revolves around how caregiving may change your relationships with your loved ones.
While there is no one set type of caregiving relationship, two of the most common caregiver – patient relationships are those between spouses/partners or adult children/parents.
Spouse or Partner
For many older adults, it’s common for a caregiver to be the spouse or partner in a relationship. And it makes sense, on both a practical level (chances are you are living together, meaning that the caregiver is always close by) as well as an emotional level (the emotional bond and intimacy between the two will result in a caregiver with a deep desire to help their loved one heal or live as comfortably as possible).
While some who provide care to their spouses feel the experience strengthens the bond between them, it isn’t uncommon for the caregiver to feel stress, resentment or other frustrations. These feelings often occur when the caregiver feels like their relationship has become one-sided. On the other side of the coin, the individual receiving care may worry that they are becoming a burden to their spouse.
Adult children often serve as caregivers for aging parents. While it feels great for the adult child to be able to care for their parents as their parents once did for them, the “role reversal” can be difficult for both individuals to reconcile. It can be awkward or embarrassing for a parent to receive care from someone they cared for in often-similar manners in the early stages of their life, or feel unnatural for the adult child to need to assist in tasks such as bathing.
How to ease the stress of care giving
Whether you are caring for a spouse, a parent or other loved one, it’s important to remember that you shouldn’t feel alone in your caretaking. If you feel that your caregiving is taking a negative toll on yourself or your relationship, you may find it helpful to find a source of support. Bringing in outside support or help will allow you to dedicate more time to caring for yourself – something that some find difficult to do, especially when they are providing constant care for a loved one. We all need time to care for ourselves – and you should never feel guilty for choosing to step back to ensure you look out for your own wellbeing.
Bringing in an outside, neutral source to act as a geriatric care manager to support, guide and provide an objective point of view can allow you to make the best caregiving decisions. In-home counseling services also offer an effective way to help you in your caregiving and provide an objective look at your situation.
Some caregivers may choose to hire outside caregiving help (such as a senior home care provider) or join a support group (like our Dealing with Dementia support group). Some may want to take part in a self-care education program (such as Powerful Tools for Caregivers). Whatever route you choose to take, remember that there are many people who can help you reduce your stress, whether it be by taking on some of your caretaking responsibilities or providing an outlet to discuss your stresses and offer advice.