I Don’t Want To Be My Husband’s Caregiver – The Caring Generation®
The Caring Generation® – Episode 66 December 16, 2020. On this podcast for caregivers, Pamela D Wilson, Caregiving Expert offers suggestions for wives who say, I Don’t Want to Be My Husband’s Caregiver. Guest Dr. Patricia Thomas, Associate Professor at Purdue University, shares caregiving research about Social Support, Touch, and Well-being.
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I Don’t Want to Be My Husband’s Caregiver
0:00:04.7 Announcer: Caregiving can sometimes feel like an impossible struggle. Caregivers may be torn between taking care of loved ones and trying to maintain balance in life. The good news is that it doesn’t have to be that way. The Caring Generation with host Pamela D. Wilson is here to focus on the conversation of caring. You’re not alone, in fact, you’re in exactly the right place to share stories and learn tips and resources to help you and your loved ones. So now, please welcome the host of The Caring Generation, Pamela D. Wilson.
0:00:38.6 Pamela D. Wilson: This is Pamela D. Wilson, caregiving expert, consultant, and speaker. I’m your host on The Caring Generation. The Caring Generation focuses on conversations about health, well-being, caring for ourselves and aging parents, all tied together with humor and laughter essential to being a caregiver. The topic for this caregiving program is by caregiver request. It’s called I Don’t Want to be My Husband’s Caregiver. Caregiving research by Noel-Miller, Katz, and others confirms that husbands benefit more from spousal care than wives. How many of you are surprised about that? Statistics confirm that wives are more likely than husbands to serve as primary caregivers. What does this mean for wives who say, “I don’t want to be a caregiver for my husband?” I will share five reasons that wives say, “I don’t want to be a caregiver for my husband,” and I’ll offer five caregiver survival tips for being a caregiver for my husband.
0:01:42.6 Pamela D. Wilson: The guest for this show’s health and wellness segment is Dr. Patricia Thomas. She is an Associate Professor at Purdue University in the Sociology Department and a Faculty Associate in the Center on Aging and the Life Course. Her research focuses on the impact of social relationships and social position on health outcomes across the life course. Her research has appeared in multiple peer-reviewed journals such as the American Journal of Public Health, the Journal of Gerontology: Social Sciences, Journal of Health and Social Behavior, and Social Science & Medicine. Dr. Thomas will talk about social support, touch, and well-being in caregiving relationships, especially during this year of COVID, and how all of this has changed.
0:02:36.7 Pamela D. Wilson: Let’s go back to the number one reason that wives say, I Don’t Want to be My Husband’s Caregiver. This is reason number one: relationship quality and emotional closeness. If you’re married, you know that different aspects of daily life can change and place stress on marital relationships. Having children is one of the major bumps in the road for a marriage and the transition from being a couple to being a family. If you have had children, you know that having a baby changes everything. Sleep patterns, work schedules. That marital adjustment to having children can be difficult. Similar to the adjustment of wife saying that, “I am a caregiver for my husband.” When raising children, it’s usually the wife that becomes totally involved in the child’s life. A husband can feel left out because the relationship with the wife is kind of placed on the back burner in favor of child care.
0:03:40.2 Pamela D. Wilson: This caregiving imbalance that begins for women with having children continues all the way through elder and spousal care, and it can take a lot of effort for wives to regain a sense of independence and autonomy after being a caregiver for so many years. It’s no secret that women suffer from the personal sacrifices made during a marriage. Even though nobody talks about this. Men typically work outside the home. Women typically give up jobs and careers to bear the responsibilities of family care and taking care of the household. Between raising children and being a caregiver for my husband, women can care for one or both sets of parents. Should there really be a surprise when a woman says, oh, I don’t want to be my husband’s caregiver? During the years of a marriage, relationship quality and emotional closeness can rise and fall. When children move out of the home, the stress of caring for elderly parents might be that next challenge—placing major stress on couple relationships. Resentment can grow to become a significant issue in spousal caregiving situations.
0:04:56.8 Pamela D. Wilson: For more about spousal caregiver resentment and why this happens, you can listen to The Caring Generation podcast, it is called Spousal Caregivers and Caregiver Resentment. Depending on the couple situation, husband and wife working or husband working, and wife continuing to be that caregiver, the toll of caregiving can continue to grow when it becomes difficult for each partner to acknowledge the role that each plays in holding a family together. While common sense might lead one to accept responsibility and duty, some couples dream about nights of uninterrupted sleep away from caregiving. They dream of taking a vacation as a couple and ending what can seem to be ongoing caregiving responsibilities—whether it’s for children or aging parents. By the time a husband needs care, the wife may be done with years of personal sacrifice. That idea of, I don’t want to be my husband’s caregiver, and sometimes thoughts of, “it’s time for me to live my life,” may be the only thing that a woman can think.
0:06:04.0 Pamela D. Wilson: Wives in caregiving groups feel guilty speaking negatively about a husband or a relationship with a husband. Especially if a situation exists where a husband has a lot of health issues. Health issues and complications can make caregiving very stressful for wives— especially if a husband has multiple health issues that result in hours and hours of daily care and support. A lot of couples find themselves in that challenging situation when they’re older. Because men typically work out of the home and control marital finances, their wives, unless they really press for involvement, many times are not involved in discussions about financial planning and costs of care after retirement.
0:06:50.0 Pamela D. Wilson: If you are a woman listening, how many times have you gone with your husband to meet with your financial planner or a CPA? If the answer is no, it’s time to get involved so that you don’t end up being the one to say, “we don’t have money, and I don’t want to be my husband’s caregiver,” with your husband controlling all of the finances, and you can’t hire outside care. This concept of control by husbands leads us in to the number two reason that wives say, I don’t want to be my husband’s caregiver. Sometimes wives live with an abusive or controlling husband. While a lot of women will live through that relationship issue because of having children, after children leave the household, that is another critical time for a marriage.
0:07:32.8 Pamela D. Wilson: Becoming an empty nester means that the focus is no longer on children, and it returns to a marital relationship. The husband and the wife who may have struggled for years while they’ve had children and while they raised children. We’re going to talk more about not wanting to be a caregiver for my husband in the second half of this show. Up next, we are going to have Dr. Patricia Thomas, she is an Associate Professor at Purdue University in the Sociology Department. And she’s also a faculty associate in the Center on Aging and the Life Course. She’s going to join us to talk about a lot of her research about social support, touch, and well-being in caregiving relationships. Helps for caregivers and aging adults are in my caring for aging parents caregiving blog. It’s on my website at www.PamelaDWilson.com.
0:08:25.2 Pamela D. Wilson: I also invite you to follow me on my social media channels, Facebook at PamelaDWilson caregiving expert. There, you can join my online caregiver support group. It’s called The Caregiving Trap. There are a lot of caregivers in there from all over the world. All different walks of life from caregivers who are 20 years old, all the way to those who are 80—who are elderly, taking care of elderly parents. It’s a great group. You can get a lot of advice from the caregivers in that group. You can also on my website join my caregiving library. It’s free. There’s a library on there for family caregivers and also for professional caregivers. So caregivers who are CNAs, those who work in the healthcare community, there’s a lot of information, free articles, videos, and all of the podcasts that are there. I’m Pamela D. Wilson. You’re with me on The Caring Generation live from the BBM Global Network, Channel 100, and TuneIn radio. Stay with me. We’ll be right back with Dr. Patricia Thomas.
0:09:44.2 Pamela D. Wilson: This Pamela D. Wilson caregiving expert on The Caring Generation. With us is Dr. Patricia Thomas, associate professor from Purdue University. Dr. Thomas, welcome to the show.
0:09:56.5 Dr. Patricia Thomas: Thank you.
0:09:57.7 Pamela D. Wilson: Your research focuses on the impact of social relationships and social position on health outcomes across the life course. Can you talk about the benefits of touch and how COVID has changed the frequency of social support and touch?
0:10:13.8 Dr. Patricia Thomas: Absolutely. So touch, which you can define as a hug, kiss, pat on the back, hand on the shoulders—and we’re talking about consensual touch, of course—has been linked to lower blood pressure, higher oxytocin levels, better sleep, less severe illness, less pain, and in my own work, less chronic inflammation. And chronic inflammation has been linked to a higher likelihood of heart attack and stroke, for example. So there’s a variety of effects that can be really beneficial. And those are just some of the physiological effects. It’s often linked to higher well-being. You feel more connected to others when you touch, and it makes us feel good. Then, obviously, during the pandemic, this is a difficult time for a lot of people, and staying at least 6 feet apart, really stops you from being able to hug. So the frequency of touch has certainly decreased. And along with that, there’s been extra anxiety and challenges that everyone’s facing.
0:11:12.4 Dr. Patricia Thomas: And so having that comfort of being touched… Hugging, being held, would be extra beneficial, but it’s also very risky. And so social isolation, including being isolated from touch, is a big issue with COVID. And it’s important to think about other types of support, such as emotional support that can be done in a way that doesn’t have to be face-to-face. Doesn’t have to be in close proximity, but having someone to listen to your worries or problems, providing advice if asked. Making you feel loved and cared for. Being able to compensate for other types of social support can help when you just can’t hug so many people. And though it would feel nicer to do that in the context of a hand on your shoulder or a hug, you can still hold space for someone without physically holding them. And so that can be a less risky scenario during this pandemic.
0:12:16.6 Pamela D. Wilson: And a lot of caregivers, like spouses and elderly parents and adult children, they provide hands-on care in caregiving, so it’s a little—it’s not necessarily like a hug, but it’s other things. What effect does that have on relationships?
0:12:31.9 Dr. Patricia Thomas: Touch makes us feel closer to one another, and it can be very calming and comforting. And there’s even been some studies of touch from nurses that touch is linked to better sleep, lower blood pressure, and lower levels of pain in patients. And there was even this interesting experimental study where they were given this vignette that prompted them to think about death, and a brief touch on the shoulder by an experimenter actually was related to less anxiety about death. And so these are—those studies were with basically strangers. So the touch is even more meaningful when it’s provided by a spouse or adult children. And especially in the context of the vulnerability and trust in a caregiving relationship. So having that touch—and sometimes you can incorporate a reassuring hand on the shoulder, along with the sort of more instrumental types of touch of helping someone with something. That can be helpful to the one receiving care, but it can also be affirming and promote closeness with the person who is providing care. So it’s likely to be beneficial to the relationship itself and to everyone involved in it.
0:13:48.6 Pamela D. Wilson: And I was reading one of your articles, and it talked about older adults being isolated and some mention of self-applied touch to the palm of the hand. Can you explain what that is?
0:14:00 Dr. Patricia Thomas: Sure. So there is some research showing that self-applied touch to the palm of your hand or even to your forearm was linked to positive signals in the brain that were associated with pleasant feelings. And obviously, this isn’t the same as a hug from a friend. But for the 26% of older adults, age 65 and older in the United States—that’s close to 13 million Americans who live alone—it might help a little bit while keeping distance from others to reduce risk of COVID. It’s sort of a temporary stop-gap more than a long-term solution. And again, [chuckle] even if older adults are living alone, it’s important to try to make sure that they receive other kinds of social support too. Like what I was saying with emotional support that can be over the phone or online, sort of having—whatever coping mechanisms can help you will be useful in the stress of the pandemic.
0:15:06.4 Pamela D. Wilson: And I know we’re going to be going to a break, but I’m going to start a question we probably have to finish it after the break. But I read another article of yours. It was about social support and the well-being of older adults. And there was something surprising in there that says that sometimes receiving support from children is negatively associated with older adult well-being. Can you start that answer, and then we can finish it after the break?
0:15:28.8 Dr. Patricia Thomas: Sure. So parents are used to providing for their children. They’ve raised them, there’s a sense of usefulness, and the direction of support is usually from parents to child. There’s these norms of this type of support. But as people age, the roles can reverse. And that can be challenging to one’s identity. It challenges this idea of usefulness. Makes you feel maybe that you’re not as independent, and you were so used to being the provider, and so receiving that support from children can be detrimental to well-being in that way. It can be a tough transition, and you might feel like a burden when you’re so used to being the giver, and now you’re the receiver. But importantly, if you can exchange support in both directions. Giving to children—even as an older adult with things like emotional support—was related to higher well-being. So if you can both give and receive, that can be a useful strategy. And depending on who you’re receiving or giving from, it can make a difference. So receiving from a spouse is beneficial for well-being. And we’ll talk more about that, I’m sure because that’s important too. But being meaningful… Providing that meaningful support in both directions can be useful.
0:16:54.4 Pamela D. Wilson: Okay, great. Listeners, we are going to continue our conversation with Dr. Patricia Thomas from Purdue University after this break. This is Pamela D. Wilson. You’re with me on The Caring Generation, on the BBM Global Network live and TuneIn Radio 100. If you’re with me on The Caring Generation, stay with us, we’ll be right back.
0:17:37.2 Pamela D. Wilson: This is Pamela D. Wilson, caregiving expert, consultant, and speaker on The Caring Generation. Let’s continue our conversation with Dr. Patricia Thomas from Purdue University. So Dr. Thomas, in addition to social support and touch, you also researched a connection between spouses for cognitive health. Can you talk about that relationship between stress, cognition, and social support?
0:18:02.1 Dr. Patricia Thomas: Sure. So there’s a lot of nuances, but overall, social support between spouses is typically good for health and well-being. And it can buffer the negative effects of stress. So it can make it so that that stress doesn’t harm you as much. So having someone to rely on, to talk to in times of worry, to encourage you to engage in healthy behaviors, all of that is related to better health and also better cognitive health. But in another study that I worked on, we found that that strain with a spouse was actually related to better cognitive health over time. Which was a little counter-intuitive at first. Generally, you see the benefits of social support, but not so much with strain. But there’s some research that shows that just a little bit of stress can facilitate cognitive functioning.
0:18:57.0 Dr. Patricia Thomas: So too much stress is generally bad for cognitive health. But a little bit can be good. And the same with strain, which can be considered sort of a source of stress in a way. If strain is too much, then it likely hinders, but a little bit of strain can be beneficial. And often if you think about strain with a spouse, some of that can involve arguing. And so that can keep you on your toes and keep you mentally sharp. So ultimately, relationships are multi-dimensional, and so there’s social supports, there’s strain. There’s stress going on both in the relationship and in the broader world, and all of these can contribute to cognition in different ways. But generally, that social support between spouses can really help with mitigating the effects of outside stressors that can impact your health behaviors and ultimately your health, including cognition.
0:19:55.9 Pamela D. Wilson: I have a lot of spouses in my support groups, and they talk about what your research calls social control. Can you share that concept and talk about how it affects marital relationships?
0:20:07.6 Dr. Patricia Thomas: Yes. So social control is about the regulation of your significant other’s behaviors. So you might encourage or perhaps nag your spouse to eat better, to exercise, to go to the doctor, to engage in fewer risky behaviors, and so forth. And interestingly, men are generally on the receiving end of this, whereas women are more on the providing side. And so…
0:20:33.7 Pamela D. Wilson: I have to laugh at that.
0:20:36.2 Dr. Patricia Thomas: Right. Yes, it’s… [chuckle] You might see these patterns, perhaps. And actually because of social control, at least in different sex couples, men tend to actually benefit more from marriage in terms of their health than women. Because women are already behaving better for their health whereas men are not so much and women sort of get them to behave in better ways for their health. So social control can be a good thing that can result in better health behaviors and ultimately better health. But it can also create some strain in relationships. It can be annoying to have someone telling you what you should be doing, and so in that last study that I was talking about, we found that strain was beneficial for cognitive health. And another reason potentially behind this is that a spouse may be experiencing social control that creates that strain—but also produces better health behavior. So similar to what I was talking about before, a little bit of social control and a little bit of strain is often good and useful but too much and it might be detrimental. You don’t want to go too far with that, where it affects the relationship too much.
0:21:53.7 Pamela D. Wilson: Well, let’s talk about stress and COVID. It’s been a tough year for everybody. How does increased stress affect the immune system?
0:22:02.6 Dr. Patricia Thomas: Stress can take a big toll on our health. The stress response of our bodies is very useful in tackling a particular stressor, so when there’s something that happens to us, our body reacts, and that can be very… That can help us cope with it and can help us get over it. But over time, if our stress response is constantly activated, it can cause some wear and tear on our body, and it can make us more susceptible to illness too. And so we need to be extra careful to take care of ourselves and each other during this stressful time with the pandemic. ‘Cause this—this has gone on for a while, and it’ll still go on longer. And so being able to link that to providing social support to each other in whatever ways we can, can help both the giver and the receiver and can buffer some of the effects of stress so that they don’t impact us quite so much. And it can also help us feel more connected to each other, and help us overcome some of these things. And reduce that impact that stressors have on our bodies and our minds.
0:23:14.2 Pamela D. Wilson: Well, and I know that we’re all hoping that COVID goes away soon, but I don’t think that’s going to happen. It can be with us for a while. So what are your recommendations for people who really could benefit from social contact, but they’re scared to death of the risks of COVID?
0:23:28.8 Dr. Patricia Thomas: There’s definitely some trade-offs. So first, if you live in the same household, you might take to heart the idea of hugging one another and providing each other a comforting touch. So sort of making extra effort. Because you’re in the same household, so you’re in the same bubble. And so if you’re interacting with each other—and it’s a lot because you’re all at home. Often times, and that can be stressful, and you might get on each other’s nerves. But if you can be gentle with each other and maybe even make those extra efforts for physical touch that can help maybe reduce some of the stress too. And take advantage of opportunities to connect with your household. And then, another thing that’s—there’s this really cool simulation study. And so they simulated all these different ways of interacting and how that would affect risk of COVID. And what they recommended was basically, a pandemic pod or a bubble or a quarantine—whatever you want to call it. Basically, repeated contact with a similarly low-risk person where you interact only with each other in this way. And what they found is that it doesn’t substantially increase your COVID risk. And so if you can find one or two other people who are low risk and you have to have really good communication about your exposures, about your behaviors, about what each of you think is an acceptable level of risk and it needs to be a closed network.
0:25:05.3 Dr. Patricia Thomas: So if your pandemic buddy has two other pandemic buddies, and they have pandemic buddies who have pandemic buddies, then this bubble gets so big that it’s no longer protective. But if you—especially with winter coming up and it’s making it harder to meet up outside and colder weather in some parts of the country—picking those couple of people or one person to interact with exclusively in this way can help make sure that your mental health doesn’t suffer from the lack of contact and also, that gives an opportunity to give each other hugs. And then also the virtual interactions can still be helpful. You can still get that social support. There’s always going to be some level of risk in person. But you need to compromise in some ways to balance your physical and mental health. But do it in the safest way possible. And this is clearly…
0:25:58.4 Pamela D. Wilson: Great.
0:26:00.0 Dr. Patricia Thomas: Important for those who live alone who are especially at risk with social isolation.
0:26:02.9 Pamela D. Wilson: Dr. Thomas, thank you so much. We have got to head out for a break. Thank you for everything that you do. And thank you for joining us tonight. Listeners, this Pamela D. Wilson, your host on The Caring Generation. Stay with me. We’ll be right back.
0:26:38.8 Pamela D. Wilson: This is Pamela D. Wilson, caregiving expert, consultant, and speaker, your host on The Caring Generation radio show for caregivers and aging adults. Let’s return to the subject of I don’t want to be my husband’s caregiver. When a spouse needs care, a wife may say no to the responsibility of being a caregiver for my husband. In these situations, husbands and wives can look at their own lives and the personal sacrifices made to raise children. Having children can bring couples closer together, or it can create longer-term problems—if those relationships between the husband and the wife were not nurtured during child-raising years. Husbands who were abusive or controlling may feel out of control when children leave the home.
0:27:24.0 Pamela D. Wilson: If empty nesters parents choose to divorce, children can feel responsible. This leaves women in the position of choosing to start all over again to avoid being a caregiver for my husband. Research shows that widowed wives—many of them do not want to be married and be placed back in that revolving door of being a caregiver. A lot of them will say, “I did it once. I don’t want to do it again.” Let’s talk about the number three reason that wives say, I don’t want to be my husband’s caregiver. It’s an age gap. Many people think of retirement years as a time to enjoy life. They want to travel, do all kinds of fun things. But a husband who is 55, when a wife is 45, can start to have health problems.
0:28:07.1 Pamela D. Wilson: And over time, that age gap can get more significant. So when there is a 10 or a 15 or a more year age gap, it can be a major difference if a wife wants to continue a career instead of being a caregiver for a husband. Or if a wife retires at 65 and the husband is 75 or 80 years old, that can be a significant difference in health and in caregiving. A lot of research out there shows that the wider the age gap from a husband to a wife—it shortens the life expectancy of the wife. The best longevity outcomes are when men and women of a similar age marry.
0:28:48.5 Pamela D. Wilson: The number five stressor for women who say, I don’t want to be my husband’s caregiver, is the loss of life-long friends when caregiving and other hardships happen. When the commonalities of friendships shift during life circumstances, those friendships can be pulled apart. Friendships can change significantly. Remember when you were a couple, and your friends started to have babies? Many of those friendships changed. When your children went off to college, and you had other friends who still had children in school, those relationships may have changed. For better or worse, situations can change friendship relationships unless both friends are very committed to find new commonalities to support those relationships. When a wife becomes a caregiver for my husband, free time can disappear, especially if the husband is no longer able to go out with the wife and with friends. Friends who are able to talk openly about the challenges of life and relationships, more likely to be women than men, can find creative ways to maintain friendships.
0:29:50.9 Pamela D. Wilson: For situations where friends are uncomfortable because of, let’s say, a husband diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or another disease—some friends are not really emotionally prepared to see friends what I call fading away into illness. Especially if those friendships were based on active lifestyles, social activities, travel. Those relationships can be very difficult to maintain when a husband is sick. That thought leads us to five tips about rewriting relationship expectations on the subject of I don’t want to be my husband’s caregiver.
0:30:23.9 Pamela D. Wilson: The first is rewriting relationships. So similar to couples having children, couples who are empty nesters and couples who become spousal caregivers are really better with being flexible about relationship expectations. The beliefs that we have about our relationships have a dramatic effect on our daily experiences when we find ourselves making statements like, “Oh, if my husband or wife would only do this.” We’re entering that mental danger zone that can have us doubting our relationships. Other worrisome statements include, “Oh, he’ll never change. The situation is hopeless. Nothing is going to get better.” When you say or think these things, you’re drowning yourself in negativity.
0:31:05.2 Pamela D. Wilson: Admittedly it can be very difficult to change our beliefs about the way that we think or act. It can take a lot of effort to make that happen. We are going to continue to talk more about this after the break about why women will say, “I don’t want to be my husband’s caregiver anymore.” Help and hope for caregivers and aging adults is on my website at www.PamelaDWilson.com. A detailed manual about how to be a caregiver, plan and coordinate care is in my online caregiver course called Stay at Home: Taking Care of Elderly Parents at Home and Beyond, that also applies to spousal caregiving relationships.
0:31:44.9 Pamela D. Wilson: More help for caregivers is also in my caregiving book. It’s called, The Caregiving Trap: Solutions for Life’s Unexpected Changes. You can go on my website, click on the how I help button, and information about the book is there. And also about the online course. There’s a lot of help for caregivers from planning about care one year, two years, three years from now, all the way through how to take care of loved ones who have dementia and other chronic illnesses. I’m Pamela D. Wilson, caregiving expert, consultant, and speaker. You’re with me on The Caring Generation on the BBM Global Network, Channel 100, and TuneIn Radio. Stay with me. We’ll be right back.
0:32:47.7 Pamela D. Wilson: This is Pamela D. Wilson, caregiving expert, consultant, and speaker on The Caring Generation. Let’s return to ideas about rewriting relationship expectations when caregiving enters the picture and wives say, “I don’t want to be my husband’s caregiver anymore.” Number two on the list is difficulty realizing the effects of cognitive impairment, also known as dementia, Alzheimer’s, a brain injury, or anosognosia.
0:33:15.7 Pamela D. Wilson: When caregivers fail to ask, and medical providers fail to explain, frustrations about the effects of memory loss can be significant. How many of us say or think, “Oh, that person does that thing just to drive me crazy,” when really, the person who has memory loss has no idea whatever that thing is that irritates you. If memory loss exists, that “thing” is not intentional. In fact, after a husband, wife, mother, father, sister, or brother does that, the issue is they don’t remember that they did it. Cognitive impairment that relates to memory loss benefits from taking a sincere interest in learning about the disease. For some, it’s one of the most difficult lessons they will ever learn. It’s the idea of watching a loved one fade away. Earlier in the program, we talked about the loss of friendships that can result from situational life changes. I want to mention the stress that Alzheimer’s and dementia places on family and friend relationships. If you are in a situation where your spouse or parent has Alzheimer’s or dementia, and people are saying, “Oh, I don’t want to visit because I don’t know what to say,” or “I don’t want to visit because the person won’t remember who I am,” share The Caring Generation podcast called How To Talk To a Parent With Dementia.
0:34:32.2 Pamela D. Wilson: In addition to the tips that I offer, Dr. Stephen Post shares information to confirm that loved ones with dementia can still connect with us, even though family might be thinking, “I don’t know if mom, dad, grandma or grandpa is even still there.” If your spouse has memory loss and you’re thinking, I don’t want to be a caregiver for my husband, don’t wait to get help or to make a short-term and a long-term plan for care. Persons with memory loss, depending on the situation, can live for many, many years. Instead of placing yourself in a position where you feel stuck, and you’re saying, “I don’t want to be my husband’s caregiver,” find other sources of support. Many caregivers wait too long to get help, don’t be that person.
0:35:16.9 Pamela D. Wilson: Number three on the list of tips for finding caregiving surviving skills is to survive thoughts of, I don’t want to be my husband’s caregiver, you want to identify what you feel is being lost in your marital relationship. It can be challenging because it requires honesty and insight into what’s really upsetting the spouses. Make a list of all the thoughts that come into your mind. Make a list of the things that you miss doing with your spouse. For example, I miss morning conversations with my husband. I miss going out to dinner and social events. What other things do you miss? By talking about what you miss, you might learn what your husband also misses. At a minimum, having this conversation may help increase empathy about the losses that you are both experiencing.
0:36:06.0 Pamela D. Wilson: Number four on the list of tips for finding caregiver survival skills is to talk honestly about revising the expectations for your relationship. It’s important to avoid blame. State what is important to you individually, and then agree on what’s important to you as a couple. Accept that both of you may have to stretch a little bit out of that comfort zone to find a middle ground and a compromise to find what is important to both of you. You might be in a care situation where your husband gets nervous if you leave the house for long periods of time. But you as a wife, you need time away. Agree on steps to take to help your husband have other companionship so that you can go out. This may be hiring a caregiver, asking a friend to come over and visit, or having your children visit. Time away for spouses, even those who say, I don’t want to be my husband’s caregiver, can be challenging.
0:37:00.8 Pamela D. Wilson: More research shows that spouses who are the primary caregivers provide a lot of hours of care. Seventy or 80 hours a month. Some spousal caregivers are 24/7 caregivers who never get a break. Some of these caregivers find it impossible to give up their caregiving role even for short periods of time, just to get away. Crazy, isn’t it? When wives say, you don’t want to be a caregiver for my husband, yet you feel guilty taking time off. Caregivers can be our own worst enemies when we’re trying to change our beliefs or our habits to change a care situation. If your default response to suggestions is no, or that won’t work, stop yourself. Rather than being the no person, stretch your mind to believe that the situation can be different and that you don’t have to be that only caregiver all of the time. Give yourself that permission to actually say, I don’t want to be my husband’s caregiver anymore all the time and start shifting the responsibilities. Give yourself permission to hire in-home caregivers. Look at care communities if that daily care has gone beyond the care that is really safe or practical for you to provide. If you don’t have your estate planning completed, add that to the list of important things to do.
0:38:21.1 Pamela D. Wilson: An estate plan includes medical and financial power of attorney, a will or a trust, and a living will. You and your husband should have these documents with persons appointed and back-up appointments in case the first person you choose is not available. In a couple of weeks, we are going to talk more about estate planning, including why having a medical and a financial power of attorney is important. We’re going to talk about wills and trusts, and a lot of things that family members make assumptions about when they appoint children to be their medical and financial power of attorney. There are a lot of things that can go right. But there are also a lot of things that can go wrong. We’re going to talk to an attorney about both of those sides of the story. Also know that if you are an older person and you don’t have family to appoint, there are what is called professional fiduciaries. These are people like myself who used to serve as medical and financial power of attorney. There are many of these people that have a lot of really good experience and individuals can feel comfortable in appointing these people to act at the time that you need to.
0:39:31.3 Pamela D. Wilson: Have this type of assistance in making medical decisions and planning your finances to support the care that you need. Whether it’s bringing in-home caregivers into your home—whether it’s looking at going into care communities. Persons that you appoint to serve in these roles for you can be very helpful and can give you a lot of peace of mind that when you do need that help, you will have a reliable and a trustworthy person that can show up. All spousal care givers should have an estate plan to ensure that both of you receive care, and you’ve got those trusted people to help you make and carry out medical and financial decisions. Discussing the estate plan is another step in the plan to discuss and re-write relationship expectations. We’re going to continue this conversation after the break. Follow me on Facebook at PamelaDWilsonCaregiving Expert, where you can also join my online caregiver support group. It’s called The Caregiving Trap. I’m Pamela D. Wilson, caregiving expert, consultant, and speaker. You’re with me on The Caring Generation. Stay with me. We’ll be right back.
0:41:07.0 Pamela D. Wilson: This is Pamela D Wilson, caregiving author, consultant, and speaker. I’m your host on The Caring Generation radio program for caregivers and aging adults. Share my website, www.PamelaDWilson.com with everyone you know. Let’s return to number five in the list of Caregiver Survival Tips for spouses who say, I don’t want to be my husband’s caregiver.
0:41:25.7 Pamela D. Wilson: This one is practical, and it’s something that many of us know that we should do. But life takes us off track, and we may not always feel that we have the time and the effort to devote. Number five is make the effort to expand your network of friends. As we talked earlier, life situations result in changing friendships. Within this is reconnecting with old friends to see if life situations have changed and new commonalities exist. Your friends who had children and weren’t able may be empty nesters today. Friends who had demanding careers might be retired. You might be surprised that you can rekindle some of these friendships that were precious to you earlier in life. Also, find ways to meet new friends. If you feel tied to, I don’t want to be a caregiver for my husband, untie yourself. Then you will have no reason for not getting out of the house. Friendships can actually be more supportive than family relationships because you’re not carrying around years of baggage about family disagreements.
0:42:22.2 Pamela D. Wilson: Begin scheduling weekly time to get out and keep that schedule. Don’t allow yourself to cancel because something suddenly came up. Make a commitment to minimize thoughts of I don’t want to be my husband’s caregiver. Think instead, my husband needs care, and I am finding ways to make sure that he has care while also taking care of my needs for activities and socialization. I feel good about this. Changing habits and the way that we think about situations of feeling stuck, being a caregiver for my husband can take effort by both spouses to re-work relationship expectations. While it is common that wives give up their entire lives to be caregivers, there can be a point where burnout, anger, and frustration can occur. Before you find yourself in this position today or in the future, start conversations within your family about the future. Talk about healthcare needs, money to pay for care, caring for elderly parents, and then caring for you as a couple. Caregiving can result in significant emotional and physical health issues for everybody involved. When families can talk realistically about care needs, long before needs become overwhelming—it’s so much easier to be clear-minded about how expectations may need to change if and when caregiving becomes a full-time job for adult children or a spouse, or really for everybody in that family.
0:43:48.5 Pamela D. Wilson: Women, more than anybody in a family—as we talked—are affected. And many women bear the responsibility to initiate these uncomfortable but very necessary conversations. As we talked about earlier, if you are a woman not involved in financial planning for your family, get involved. Start attending meetings with your husband and a financial planner. If you don’t have a financial planner, get one. Never think that you can’t afford to get help about planning for care. Really you can’t afford not to. You can’t afford not to have a financial plan, and you also cannot afford not to have that legal plan. That is your medical and financial power of attorney. Your living will which says what you want before you have any serious health issues. I want to thank all the caregivers who listen to this show every week. Sharing your stories helps me create articles and podcasts for you. God bless all of you caregivers. Sleep well tonight. Have a fabulous day tomorrow and a great week, until we are here together again. I’m Pamela D. Wilson, caregiving expert, consultant, and speaker.
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