Most of us never think about what will happen if our parents become incapacitated or even what will happen as they age. As a kid, our parents seem strong and invincible. So why think about elder care?
Listen, I certainly didn’t think about it. Yet, that didn’t stop it from slapping me in the face real hard.
I found myself being the primary care giver to both of my parents. This affected me beyond imagination. And you know if it affected me, it also affected my marriage. And continues to impact it to this day.
According to the National Family Caregiver Support Center, more than 45 Million people care for elderly or chronically ill family members each year, spending more than 25 hours per week caring for them. That type of effort and time commitment most certainly will have an impact on your marriage, if you don’t put measures in place to protect your union.
So, here are four things my husband and I do to keep our marriage strong and our sanity as we go through this process of caring for aging parents.
Communicate a lot!
Talk a lot and tell the truth. This is not the time to shut down and become quiet. You will have moments that you go inward and need time to reflect and rejuvenate. That’s to be expected. Other than that, communicate a lot. Talk about what’s going on.
When you talk, be open and honest. Tell your truth.
I feel alone taking care of my loved one.
I‘m scared being in charge of their finances.
I feel neglected as your spouse, yet I understand your challenge.
I miss your smile.
I’m telling you this stuff is real. Please be honest with each other and talk about your truth.
Keep your marriage first!
Keep your marriage first. Make time for one another. And by all means, employ help. Just because you can’t leave your parents alone, doesn’t mean you can’t leave them in the care of another responsible family member or hired helper. My hired caregiver has become a part of the family. My daughter and sister are also great help. To keep your marriage in the forefront you need time to focus on your mate. This means you need help caring for your loved one. Talk to your mate about what keeping your marriage first looks like. Make sure you are on the same page.
It’s hard, it’s emotional, it’s financially challenging, it’s a marriage tester.
Don’t let your emotions take over!
Don’t let your emotions drive your actions. This is a very emotional time. I literally watched my father die a slow death over the period of several years. And at the same time, I saw a diagnosis of dementia take away many of my mother’s abilities.
EMOTIONAL is an understatement. And as emotional as I was, and still am, I can’t let my emotions take over. It would ruin my marriage. My husband still needs a level headed wife. He’s not expecting to ask me a question and I chop his head off or burst out crying.
Don’t let your dreams and goals die!
I’ve been doing this for 10 years now. It’s hard, it’s emotional, it’s financially challenging, it’s a marriage tester. My encouragement to you is don’t let your dreams and goals die as you care for your loved one. Continue to have marriage goals. We do.
Maintaining a strong marriage while caring for your parents is possible. My husband and I have opportunity to grow through the pressures of this process and that’s what we are doing; we are rising to meet the challenge. And, you can too.
BMWK – do you have any tips for couples that are trying to keep their marriage strong while caring for aging parents?