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Changes in Relationships: 9 Tips on Spousal Caregiving for Memory Care

“Various studies of memory care caregivers have shown that a high percentage of the them suffer from both physical and emotional exhaustion,” says Sam Streater, Program Director of Impressions Memory Care at Bryn Mawr, located in Bryn Mawr, PA. “In many cases, it is a loving spouse taking care of their husband or wife living with Alzheimer’s disease or other form of dementia.”

According to Sam, “Memory loss can change the social dynamics for the entire family, but its effect on spouses is typically the most dramatic.“

The Alzheimer’s Association article,Changes to Your Relationship advises that as the disease progresses, your relationship with your spouse or partner with progressive memory loss will change; however, your connection can still be rich and fulfilling. They suggest spending time together in ways that bring you closer and help you relate.

Changes in the Relationship With Your Spouse

Memory care specialists advise that knowing what to expect and preparing for it is an important coping mechanism for spouses that can help you to deal with the changes ahead most effectively. They say these changes commonly include:

  • Role Changes You may find yourself taking on a new role in your relationship as your spouse's memory declines. They may no longer be able to perform certain tasks, such as balancing the checkbook, doing the taxes, handling financial and legal matters and doing certain household chores.

Prepare for these changes by locating and reviewing all essential financial and legal documents, such as life insurance policies, property deeds and retirement accounts, shortly after your spouse is diagnosed.

  • Potential Social Withdrawal You may feel socially isolated because your family and friends may have pulled back from your relationship or you have little time to spend with them. Your family and friends may hesitate to spend time with you and your spouse with Alzheimer's because they worry about not knowing what to do or say. They also may not understand the behavior changes caused by the disease or might not be able to accept that the person has the disease. 

Memory care experts recommend taking the initiative to contact family and friends. Explain that while Alzheimer's disease has changed your lives in some ways, you still value their friendship, support and continued relationship.

  • Intimacy With Your Spouse You may be feeling enormous grief over the changes in your relationship. This is common and quite understandable. You may no longer be able to have the same emotional or physical intimacy that you and your spouse once shared. Caregivers can lose their desire because of the demands of caregiving, the transition from intimate partner to caregiver and changes in their partner's personality due to the progression of dementia.

Do not feel guilty if your attraction to your partner has changed. You can find new ways to connect emotionally and remain loving with each other.Hold hands, go for walks together and spend quiet moments with each other.

9 Valuable Coping Tips for Spouse Caregivers

Experts in memory care at The Mayo Clinic and the Alzheimer’s Association, provide useful tips to help spouses deal with caregiving challenges and have a  better relationship with their loved ones. For example:

  1. Ask For Help & Support – Family members and friends often want to help out, but don’t quite know how. Provide suggestions, but always be specific in asking for their assistance, e.g. “Please pick up Jim’s prescriptions for me the first Monday of the month.”
  2. Take Time for Yourself –It's perfectly normal to need a break from caregiving duties. Schedule some “me time” to enjoy the things that make you happy, whether it’s reading a book, watching a favorite TV program or having a friend over for lunch. 
  3. Consider Respite Care Services such as respite care and adult day care take care of your loved one for a defined period and enable you to “take a breather” and care for your own needs.
  4. Manage Your StressFind ways to relax that work best for you. Activities such as exercise, yoga, tai chi, music, gardening, and visits with friends can be helpful ways to maintain balance in your life. You need it and you also deserve it.
  5. Be Realistic – The care you provide is valuable and does make a difference, but many of your loved one’s behaviors simply can't be controlled. Decide what you can and cannot do and set priorities to take care of the things that are most important.
  6. Give Yourself CreditResist the urge to feel guilty. It's normal to lose patience, get angry or feel like your care may not be adequate. Remember, you’re only human and you're doing the best you can.
  7. Enjoy the Good Times Together Familiar activities are generally enjoyable to those with Alzheimer’s. For as long as your loved one is able, continue to socialize, travel, be physically active and participate in activities that are enjoyable to both of you such as taking walks together. 
  8. Relive Enjoyable Memories Reminiscing is a recognized technique for assisting Alzheimer’s patients whose long-term memories are often intact. Discuss people and places that are familiar and create pleasant feelings for your loved one. Watch family videos, look at photographs or review trips and special moments from the past.
  9. It’s Perfectly Natural to Grieve It is normal to feel a sense of loss and grief, even while your loved one is still alive. Joining a caregiver support group can help you to share your experiences with others, vent your feelings and learn how they cope.

“It is also important to plan ahead,” Sam states. “At some point, your loved one will need more extensive memory care than you can provide at home. Take some time to evaluate a leading memory care community such as Impressions Memory Care at Bryn Mawr now so that you can be prepared for the future. This will give you peace of mind by knowing that your spouse will always have the quality memory care and socially engaging, purposeful life they deserve.”

“Organizations such asthe Well Spouse Association provide helpful resources for spouses or partners caring for their loved ones with memory loss or other chronic illness.

Your Family Resource for Memory Care Information and Support

In addition to being the area’s leading provider of specialized memory care, life enriching activities, and purposeful living, Impressions Memory Care at Bryn Mawr is also a trusted source of information for area families. We invite you to read our articles and tips on a variety of memory care topics including helpful advice for at-home memory care caregivers.   

We Would Love to Hear from You!

If you have comments or questions about our blog on memory care, we’d love to hear from you. We also encourage you to share any of your caregiving experiences in our comments section.

Engaging Days. Meaningful Moments.

Loved ones with Alzheimer’s disease or other memory impairments require specialized care and support. They also deserve a lifestyle rich in dignity and fulfillment. Impressions Memory Care at Bryn Mawr provides residents with Engaging Days and Meaningful Moments that emphasize individual abilities, encourage socialization and promote the highest level of independence possible. We offer a complete continuum of leading-edge programs, services and amenities that address the total physical, emotional and social needs of our residents in a caring setting that offers individual suites with large private baths and the comforts of home. Our community touches hearts and changes lives.

Helping Families Be “Family” Again

Memory loss caused by Alzheimer’s disease, dementia or another form of memory impairment doesn’t only affect the person who has it – it affects the entire family.

If you have a loved one with early- to mid-stage memory loss, you know how challenging it can be to provide the care that’s needed while trying to maintain balance in your life. As care needs increase, you may not be able to meet them physically or emotionally. It’s often difficult to be available to care for your loved one’s health and well-being around the clock.

If and when the time comes to seek additional help, place your trust in Impressions Memory Care at Bryn Mawr. We lift the stresses and worries of being a caregiver from your shoulders, enabling you and your family to enjoy time with your loved one again.

For more information, please call Sharon at (484) 380-5404 or contact us online.

Disclaimer: The articles and tip sheets on this website are offered by Impressions Memory Care at Bryn Mawr and Main Line Senior Care Alliance for general informational and educational purposes and do not constitute legal or medical advice. For legal or medical advice, please contact your attorney or physician.