How to Be a Wonderful Caregiver for Your Spouse

One of the best ways to be an outstanding caregiver for your spouse isn’t what you might think. Sure, helping them dress, paying attention to their needs, keeping their medications straight, and making them feel dignified at every possible opportunity will go a long way. However, when you are undertaking the mission of being the primary caregiver for your spouse, it’s imperative to remember the most vital part of caregiving: taking care of yourself.

How to Be a Wonderful Caregiver for Your Spouse

The most important thing to do as a primary caregiver is learning to be a great caregiver for yourself.   If you want to take care of your loved one above and beyond their expectations, then learning how to meet your own needs first is an imperative. It might sound selfish first, but hear us out.

Picture this – if you were to stay up late at night keeping watch to make sure your spouse doesn’t get out of bed without help, you’re putting your ability to care for them the next day in jeopardy. If that happens for a few days, and then add to that skipping breakfast and morning coffee in order to care for them, and you have a recipe for potential frustration and emotional breakdown that may not have occurred if you had a hot meal and a good night’s sleep.

After a few nights without sleep, most of us have trouble remembering what we ate the day before, much less the dosage of medication our spouse or loved one is supposed to receive. Keeping your mind sharp by carving out time for someone else to care for your spouse while you get good sleep—even if it is during the daytime—is a must.

Another important thing to remember is to put less value on what your spouse thinks, or the approval they give you after your assistance, primarily when their comments are negative. This is uncannily true when caring for loved ones with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. Sometimes, their brain’s ability to process emotions or empathize, or even to feel gratitude, is compromised, and they may display anger and have outbursts in moments that do not make sense.  Their brain is rewiring and the connections are becoming faulty. Sometimes, not being able to remember something can be very frustrating. Placing less value on their happiness or contentment, and more value on whether they are fed, sleeping, and able to walk and dress themselves can help when there is a lot of negative talk coming from your spouse.

Ask for support when you need it. Learn to recognize your personal limitations when it comes to caring for your spouse or loved one, and remember that leaving and taking a quick walk around the block can help you find perspective and re-energize yourself for the day. Do what you need to do to nurture your own soul, so that you can be nurturing toward your spouse when the time comes.

Don’t try to make your spouse happy 100% of the time, day in and day out. Most of us can agree that happiness comes in sporadic moments of time, and looking for ways to make them happy can lead to disappointment in the caregiver. Instead, look for ways to keep your spouse busy with thing they enjoy. If they enjoy reading but have trouble seeing, try an audiobook of classic literature. If they like to travel but are no longer able to do so, try subscribing to a travel magazine.  If they love sports, make sure they have the right channel subscription. If your loved one enjoys seeing grandchildren, make sure you communicate that with the right people, and set aside time to merge young and old. If your spouse loves animals, consider watching a neighbor’s pet for a few days.

It is imperative to make sure you give your spouse as much responsibility as they are able to perform. Doing everything for them only makes them more immobile, and decline can happen faster. If they can’t do it by themselves, let them know that you are going to do it together, instead of just doing it for them. Keeping them as active participants in their daily life care will help them in the long run, and take some of the burden off you as a spousal caregiver. It can be tempting to just do everything for them, especially with tasks that might take an extended period of time if they do it themselves, such as bathing. But if your spouse can hold a pen, allow them to write checks or make the grocery list. Keeping them engaged and participating can mean they help you in ways you may not consider at first.  The most important thing to remember, however, if you would like to be a great caregiver for your spouse, is to make sure you take care of yourself first.

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