It may surprise you to know that 20% of Caregivers for people 80 years or older are the same age as those they are providing care for (University of Washington). The caregiver, which in many cases is the spouse, may already need or will need his/her own care support system for current or potential health issues. Caring for a spouse, or other loved ones, can impact your own health in several ways.
How Will Being a Caregiver Impact Me?
At nearly twice the rate of non-caregivers (45% vs. 24%), several reports have found that caregivers of all ages report chronic conditions including:
- Heart disease
In addition to chronic conditions, the strain among spousal care can increase the risk of strokes by 23%, in particular for husbands caring for wives. An Indiana University-Purdue University – Indianapolis study found that a spouse diagnosed with a serious illness doubles the married-couple’s risk of divorce when compared to a healthy couple. The research clearly shows that being a spousal caregiver can cause physical and emotional strain on the person, as well as their relationship. This information tells us what is a possibility if no proactive measures are taken.
Tips for Being a Spousal Caregiver
- Take care of your own health needs. Be honest with yourself and take the necessary steps to make sure you remain healthy.
- Know your strengths and weaknesses. As a husband or wife, you may want to be the one that does everything but you need to be realistic based on your own strengths and weaknesses.
- Do your research on your and your spouse’s needs. Learn about your spouse’s health condition(s) and how best to care for them.
- Create a team of professionals to help you. Build a support system of professionals including nursing care, physicians, in-home care providers, etc.
- Ask for and accept help. Reach out to friends and family with what you need help with.
- Connect with other caregivers. Find your own support network to help prepare and deal with the strain of caregiving.
Taking the proactive steps to understand your own health conditions can greatly improve how well you are able to care for your spouse. Don’t take on too much without asking for help. Your health is just as important as your spouse’s and if you also need care, it is critical to take care of your own health needs first.