As a spouse, caregiving can become incredibly stressful. As you watch your relationship with your wife change from spouse to caregiver, emotions like love and compassion may begin to be shadowed by anger, resentment, guilt, and exhaustion. It is no walk in the park to care for your spouse who has succumbed to the symptoms of dementia.
There are a lot of instances when a spouse will take on all, and I mean all, of the responsibility to care for your loved one. They were responsible for the finances and bills, but are now also responsible for groceries, laundry, and organizing appointments. At first, you may gain a sense of appreciation for your loved one, realizing how much work these tasks actually required. But over time, you may feel it is unfair that what was once a two-person job, now completely falls to you. Now, there’s no time for you to go out with your buddies, to go to the club and hang out with the boys over a whiskey and cigar. There’s no time to go for your daily walks in the woods that always gave you so much peace and relaxation. The days of going to the gym and movies are gone. All your time is spent caring, worrying, and organizing two lives so completely that all of a sudden, you want to scream, cry, and just leave it all behind.
But you don’t. You stay, and you help. But you can’t do it for much longer. So what do you do now? You couldn’t live with yourself if you just left. Not after an entire life with this person who has given you so much too.
So what are your options?
There are actually a whole bunch of resources out there to support you and your loved one. Using these resources help so that you don’t get burned out and your loved one gets the best possible care and support they need. It’s a win-win! So, let’s look at what’s out there.
First, you have volunteers. The easiest way to get access to a volunteer is through the Alzheimer’s Society chapter nearest you. These volunteers can have a range of purposes but the most common is companionship. Companionship is when a volunteer comes to your home, and spends time with your loved one. Often, they come for 2hrs at a time, once per week. This can vary from person-to-person and from situation-to-situation. During the 2-hour affair, your loved one and their companion will engage in different activities such as cooking or baking, gardening, knitting, going through photo albums, doing crosswords, or just chatting away. Now during this time, you can either stay with your loved one and their companion, you can go off in your home and busy yourself with other things, or you can leave to run errands or go catch a cup of tea with a friend. Usually in these situations, you’ll stay home for the first visit or so until you’ve gained trust in your companion, and then you’ll feel more freedom to go and enjoy your time free of caregiving.
Another great way to find some free time for yourself is through day programs. Some day programs are free, some are a pay-per-service, and others require a membership. Day programs can range from 1-2 hour sessions all the way to full days (9am-5pm). You can find day programs through the VON, the Alzheimer’s Society, LumaCare, and many others.
There is also a service called Respite Care. This is where your loved one goes to a facility for a couple of days to a month or so, and is cared for there. This type of service allows you to gain some much needed rest and relaxation. You are free to go on vacation, go visit relatives and friends, go to the spa, go to that hockey game with the boys. Pretty much do anything you want. There are many retirement homes that offer respite care and can be found in this list. Not all retirement homes offer this service.
Another common stressor when caring for someone with dementia is groceries and meal preparation. But don’t worry, we’ve got you covered here too. Services like Meals on Wheels, or Heart To Home Meals, and Shine At Home all deliver nutritious meals to your home. No need for grocery shopping, cooking, or dishes. Enjoy cooking? Then why not try grocery delivery? Many grocery stores now offer pickup and delivery. Loblaws, Metro, and Walmart offer free grocery pickup after you order online. And companies like Anytime Grocery offer grocery delivery.
We’re not done yet. What about homemaking? Do you hate the days when you have to clean the toilet? Do laundry? or vacuum? Again, there’s a service for that. We understand that in a partnership, one person doesn’t do everything. Both spouses worked as a team to accomplish the daily doings of life. But when one gets sick and can’t contribute as much anymore, you can be sure that there is a service out there to help you out. Companies like Retire-At-Home and Bayshore offer these types of services.
Most importantly, don’t do it alone. We all need help, whether it’s as simple as screwing in a light bulb, someone to vent to, or as complex as getting help with personal care like going to the bathroom or getting dressed. We all need help and there is certainly no shame in that.
One of the best things you can do for your loved one is to take care of yourself. If you’re not in good shape, then you won’t be able to support your loved one. It’s like the concept on a plane: put your own oxygen mask on first, then help others with theirs. If you don’t put your mask on first, you’ll only be able to help a handful of people before you collapse. But if you put yours on first, you can go around the entire plane and help everyone with theirs.