Caring for a spouse is something most partners will face at one time or another. It might be short-term while they rehabilitate from a surgery or longer term if they suffer from a more debilitating disease such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s. For older adults, having a spouse as a caregiver offers the advantages of maintaining privacy, easing embarrassment and receiving care from someone who knows them well. For the caregiving spouse, the role can be personally fulfilling. It can, however, create health risks for the caregiver if the needs and stress become too great. It has been well-documented that caregiving spouses have more health problems than their non-caregiving peers.

Recognizing the Warning Signs for Caregiver Stress

How can a spousal caregiver recognize when they are putting their own health at risk? These are a few of the most common warning signs of caregiver stress:

  • Becoming emotional or angry quickly
  • Insomnia or problems with sleep
  • Feelings of sadness, sorrow or hopelessness
  • Not maintaining your own personal physician appointments
  • Relying on unhealthy habits such as too much caffeine, smoking or drinking
  • Not keeping up with your own exercise program
  • Inability to find time to prepare healthy meals and snacks
  • Fatigue or loss of energy
  • Withdrawing from hobbies and groups you’ve always enjoyed
  • Feeling angry with or resentful of your spouse
  • Losing touch with extended family members or friends
  • Feeling frustrated and angry more frequently
  • Unintended weight gain or weight loss

If you identify with more than one or two of these warning signs, it might be time to take a short-term break from caregiving or maybe even time to accept that you need help with your responsibilities on a long-term basis. If there aren’t any other family members that can help pitch in, you could consider respite care at an assisted living community. A short-term “respite” stay for your loved one allows you much needed time to rest and recharge your own health. Your loved one can stay at the community for a few days up to one month. If you live in Michigan and have questions about Short-term stays, our FAQ Section may be of help.

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