A spouse’s diagnosis of life-limiting illness is a roller coaster in itself. Without conscious decision, you find yourself coming into the role of caregiver: taking notes at doctors appointments, picking up medication and ensuring that it has been dispensed properly, calling home during the day to make sure everything is well, etc. These are things we, as loving spouses, just do. It’s like breathing. We aren’t expected to breathe, nor do we do it for any particular reward – we just do it because that’s what you do. It’s an innate response to a loved one’s change in health.
Medical crisis can change a couple’s relationship – the stress of medical appointments, the fear of the unknown, mourning the loss of time and ability. Add the complexity of caregiving and the intimate edge of your relationship can often be the first thing to evaporate.
The complexities are faced by both spouses: it is certainly challenging for the caregiver to balance and assimilate the new role, but it is an equally emotional trial for the individual grieving their own lost ability and watching the responsibility fall upon their spouse.
Couples identify as each other’s spouses before identifying as “caregiver and care recipient.” Spousal relationships are often about give-and-take, where caregiver relationships have qualities that are one-sided (for example, driving, cleaning, household finances, grooming, child care, etc). In order to maintain the balance that is so treasured in spousal relationships, many couples take advantage of services that can ease the one-sided providing.
Home care services:
Home Care organizations offer diverse levels of care depending on your needs. Visit our “Resources” section (link in green bar beside “blog”) to see a list of private and not for profit Calgary-area Home Care companies, organized by city quadrant. (Our resources database also has links to community support services, long term care facilities, 55+ community organizations, etc. Bookmark us for quick reference to one-stop Calgary-area resources.)
If your family lacks the financial means to pay for Home Care, don’t fret – there are free options. Financial abundance isn’t the only way to receive caregiving assistance. Alberta Health Services offers provincially funded Home Care services – call Health Link Alberta at 403-943-5465 (LINK) for more information on access and eligibility.
In the world of caregiving, self-care is emphasized as a mechanism for self-protection and professional longevity. The same rings true for spousal and familial caregiving. Unless you first take care of yourself, you will be unable to care well for others. It is not selfish to unload some of the caregiving roles to others, and will preserve and prolong the integrity of your romantic relationship.
Take care of yourselves and each other,