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Caring For My Spouse: When to Seek Help

“Through sickness and in health” is one of the vows we take on our wedding day, the first day of what we hope will be a lifelong journey with our husband or wife.

Nothing is more beautiful than the love and devotion of a couple who have been fortunate enough to age together. And through that journey, that vow to be there through sickness and health will be tested, especially in their senior years.

Becoming the caretaker for a spouse is more than honoring a vow. It is another sign of the bond developed between two people. But it can also be life changing. You may need to switch careers or even retire in order to devote the time necessary to care for your loved one.

The demands of being a caretaker are also physically and emotionally draining. Studies conducted by the Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA) and the Harvard School of Public Health have shown that caring for a spouse over a long period of time can increase the risk of stress, depression and cardiovascular disease.

Because that bond between life partners is so strong, the spouse who is serving as caretaker will often compromise their own health and disregard signs that they need help. If you or someone you know is the primary caretaker for a spouse, ask these questions:

Are you missing or delaying your own medical appointments?

Are you unable to exercise or socialize?

Are you experiencing feelings of depression, loneliness or hopelessness?

Are you starting to feel resentment toward your spouse?

Are you finding family and friends less willing to help you provide care?

Answering yes to any of these questions is probably a sign that help is needed. Remember, asking for help is not a sign of weakness or a failure to uphold your vows. In fact, it is quite the opposite. Giving your spouse excellent care has always been your priority. Asking for help is a way to honor that vow of being there for your spouse through sickness and in health.

There are long-term care options that can be introduced into your very own home, such as professional home aids and caregivers, renovations to your current home, as well as meal preparation and delivery services.

If you need even more support, senior living communities may offer the services to ensure you and your spouse receive the best care, easing your burden and allowing you to focus on what really matters – each other.

If you feel you need help or want to better understand what kind of support is available, the New Hampshire ServiceLink (www.servicelink.nh.gov) is a great resource, as is the tollfree National Caregiver Support Line (855-260- 3274).

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