6 Considerations Women Should Know When Caregiving for a Spouse

Although the gap is narrowing, women make up the bulk of caregiving. Recent studies show that anywhere from 60-65% of caregivers are female, and this number skews highest as women get older.

Caregiving can be stressful, frightening, and taxing for you and your loved ones. But, as a woman, you also face certain obstacles in this task. Here are some important considerations you should know.

You May Be Stressed About Not Working

Caregiving may invariably force you out of the typical labor force. In some cases, this may welcome an earlier-than-planned retirement. In other cases, it can trigger immense financial insecurity.

Unfortunately, you may feel like you’re presented with an impossible choice. Caregiving for a spouse may be a significant priority, but if you aren’t able to pay the bills, problems will inevitably emerge.

There are resources for compensation and financial planning. It’s important to evaluate and look into these options.

And if you still feel stressed, it’s important to remind yourself that it’s entirely valid. Reach out to people who will listen and provide you with support.

You May Feel ‘Sandwiched’

Research shows that the average caregiver is female, 49, and caring for her mother. As a result, you might be ‘sandwiched’ in between taking care of your parents and your children.

But even if you’re caregiving for a spouse, this sandwich effect may still ring true. This is because you may still feel responsible for your children (even if they are no longer at home), and you might also be managing other family members.

The sandwich effect can, of course, feel draining and challenging. You may be at a higher risk for isolation or burnout, and it’s important to continue receiving support during this time.

You Could Face Health Problems

Untreated caregiver stress can wreak havoc on your physical health. Unfortunately, many women assume they need to sacrifice themselves entirely for their loved ones.

That said, it’s important to routinely assess your health habits. For example, are you getting enough sleep? Exercising regularly? Do you have outlets for managing difficult emotions?

If you’re not taking care of yourself, you’re at an increased risk for burnout. Similarly, if you start experiencing health issues, you won’t give to your spouse as effectively. This dynamic, of course, can create even more stress for you.

You May Feel Isolated

Depending on your circumstances, caregiving can be as demanding as a part-time or full-time career. If you’re also working or managing other responsibilities, other relationships may certainly fall to the wayside.

However, isolation can trigger mental health problems, such as depression, anxiety, and substance use. It can also affect your overall emotional well-being.

We are social creatures. We rely on others for validation, connection, and community. So it’s important to try to lean on outside relationships, even if you feel strapped for time.

You Might Be at Risk for Substance Abuse

Nearly 1 million adults over age 65 have a substance use disorder, and this number appears to be rising each year. Unfortunately, our society (and even many healthcare professionals) overlook the risk factors and symptoms contributing to this phenomenon.

Caregivers may use substances to alleviate stress or provide temporary relief. Over time, however, the body builds a tolerance to the drug. As a result, you can become dependent, and that process can happen quickly or gradually.

You may be struggling with a substance use disorder if you:

  • feel like you can’t stop taking the substance even when you try.
  • experience withdrawal symptoms after a period of abstinence.
  • lie or hide your use.
  • recognize that the substance is affecting your mental or physical health.
  • keep needing to take more of the substance to achieve the desired effect.
  • are facing interpersonal issues due to substance use.

You Are Allowed to Ask For Help

You don’t have to do it all. This applies even if you think you’re capable of doing it all. It also applies even if you know you love your spouse and believe that nobody else can take care of them as well as you do.

As a caregiver, you also need balance. Whether that means outsourcing some of your other responsibilities (grocery shopping, cleaning, laundry) or asking other people to help you with your spouse, give yourself that permission.

Asking for help can feel scary, but your loved ones want to support you. They just might not know the best way to go about it. Being direct and asking for what you need can go a long way in helping you feel relieved and empowered.

Final Thoughts

Caregiving for a spouse is challenging, and it’s important to consider your emotional, physical, and financial needs during this time. Sacrificing your well-being often leads to problematic consequences.

Therapy offers a supportive environment to explore your role and its related stressors. You aren’t alone during this time- contact me today to get started!

4601 Spicewood Springs Road Building 3, Suite 200
Austin, TX 78759

(512) 988-3363

Got Questions?
Send a Message!

By submitting this form via this web portal, you acknowledge and accept the risks of communicating your health information via this unencrypted email and electronic messaging and wish to continue despite those risks. By clicking "Yes, I want to submit this form" you agree to hold Brighter Vision harmless for unauthorized use, disclosure, or access of your protected health information sent via this electronic means.