8 Tips to Ease the Burden for Spousal Caregivers

affordable home care assisted home care at home caregivers care for older people companion home care disability home care elder care in Minnesota eldercare at home elderly home assistance in home care MinneapolisApproximately 6 million U.S. spousal caregivers offer in-home care to their ill, disabled, or aging spouses, but it’s often at the risk of stress-related conditions, including anxiety, depression, headaches, backaches, and sleep deprivation.  Eventually, care for an ailing loved one can lead to burnout in which the caregiver is depleted physically, mentally, and emotionally.

Our staffing coordinator, Jim, got to experience this first-hand.  He explains:


When my dad was originally put on hospice, he moved in with my mom and me so that we could care for him.  As roommates in my townhome, this was a decision reached mutually.  Unfortunately, moms being what they are, it became difficult to wrestle caring duties from her.  She didn’t want her son to have to help care for his dad, and she preferred the way she did things.


As my dad graduated from hospice, the burden of caregiving on my mom grew heavier.  She fought like a wolverine against any form of help—either from me or from a paid caregiver.  At times, it was a battle—she didn’t want anyone messing up the kitchen, she didn’t want anyone messing with the laundry, and she didn’t want anyone else cleaning the bathroom.


Unfortunately, my mom’s fierce independence took its toll on her physically, on her relationship with my dad, and on her relationship with me.  It was a stressful seven months, particularly for her and for me (fortunately, my dad was pretty oblivious).  She and I spent too much time arguing over cooking and laundry, and she was always physically and emotionally exhausted.


This experience is typical for many spousal caregivers.  After managing a household or a family member’s care for so long, some spouses find it difficult to relinquish their home caregiver duties to someone else.  Others struggle with guilt for no longer being able to provide the necessary care.  Still, others are not convinced anyone else will oversee their spouse’s health as well as they can.

To encourage elderly wives or husbands to allow support from professional at-home caregivers, volunteers, or family, adult children taking care of elderly parents should consider the following:

home care services for seniors home help for the elderly in home care Minneapolis in home help for seniors in home senior care providers non medical senior care private pay home care respite for caregivers senior citizen care senior companion care senior home assistance1.  Reaffirm that it’s okay to recharge. Spousal caregivers need to refresh their own overall health. Respite breaks are excellent for going to the gym, seeing a movie, or lingering with a friend over coffee.

2.  Help investigate home healthcare options. Research assisted home care options in your parents’ area. Asking pertinent questions of potential in-home care service providers is vital.

3.  Involve the ailing loved one in care decisions. As much as possible, invite the care recipient to weigh in on professional caregiving choices.  Never remove control.

4.  Assist with setting limits. Spousal caregivers often find it hard to say “no” and to let go of some home and care duties.  It is better for everyone when the caregiving spouse eases up on unrealistic to-do lists.

5.  Be careful of the language you use. If an elderly parent is resisting the idea of outside assistance, it may be an issue of the wording you are using.  For example, a parent may buck at the idea of “needing help” or “needing a companion.”  Sometimes, an elderly parent may also associate the idea of receiving help with social assistance.  Learn the triggers and avoid them in conversation.  For example, instead of saying, “Dad, you need help taking care of Mom,” try saying, “Dad, I know you don’t need help.  But Mom needs help.”  Or, instead of using the word help, try naming tasks, such as saying, “We can get someone to cook a few meals.”

home care companies in Minnesota home care services for seniors home help for the elderly in home help for seniors in home senior care providers St. Paul private pay home care senior citizen care affordable home care assisted home care senior home assistance taking care of elderly parents6.  Ask for the help yourself. Work behind the scenes to enlist the aid of siblings or other family members who can help from outside the home.  This may include arranging for someone to invite the caregiving spouse out to dinner or over for dinner.  Someone can call the spouse out of nowhere and say, “I made dinner, and I’m going to stop by with it.”  Be creative.

7.  Consider getting the ailing spouse out. If the caregiving spouse can’t or won’t relinquish caregiver duties, find a way to get the ailing spouse away for a short time.  This can be something as simple as an invitation to dinner or even a weekend visit with one of the adult children.

8.  Line up caregiver help in disguise. Sometimes, elderly parents are willing to accept outside assistance, but they don’t want to pay for it.  Be creative in how you present the outside help.  If the adult children pay caregiving costs (either on their own or through managing their parents’ finances), caregivers can visit under the guise of church volunteers, friends of the family, or as members of a civic organization.


Paul Blom, CEO

April 3, 2014




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