If your spouse is diagnosed with a serious health condition, it can be a very hard time for you.
You will need the strength to support your partner in new ways, but your own needs can be easily overlooked.
Peter Rabins, M.D., M.P.H., Psychiatrist and caregiver health researcher at The Johns Hopkins Hospital, provides several strategies to help you deal with the situation.
The suggestions may be helpful for people who need to take care of their spouse diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, heart failure, kidney dysfunction or another major medical condition.
Listen to your spouse and share time with them.
Not sure what to say? That’s OK. Assure your spouse that you love and support him or her. Listen if your spouse wants to talk, or just spend quiet time together.
If possible, keep sharing routines that have been part of your life together—a TV movie and popcorn on Friday night, morning coffee and the daily newspaper, walking the dog.
After a serious diagnosis, you both may cherish these everyday traditions more than ever.
Get accurate information about your spouse’s health condition.
You can cope better when you have accurate, firsthand information about your partner’s condition, treatment, and needs.
It’s OK to start with the Internet, but make sure you find reliable websites that provide accurate, up-to-date medical information.
Talk to your spouse’s practitioners.
Don’t sit in the waiting room or stay silent during medical appointments.
You should work together with your spouse to create a list of questions before seeing the doctor.
Remember to prioritize your questions—putting the most important ones first—to be sure you receive the info you need most at your spouse’s next appointment.
Help your spouse stay on track.
A major medical diagnosis may change your spouse’s diet, physical activity, medication routine and need for rest.
Your support and encouragement can help your partner stay on track, but this new role can also trigger frustration on both of you.
To avoid this, ask the doctor about diet, medications and other daily needs your spouse may need.
When you remind your spouse at home, you can say ‘I asked the doctor and she said it’s most important to take these medications on a strict schedule, but it’s OK to take this one a little later.’
You should accept help from others.
If other people offer some helps to lower your burden, accept them.
In that way, you can focus on your ill spouse and get needed rest and support for yourself.
If you’re feeling exhausted or overwhelmed, talk to the doctor, nurse or hospital social worker.
Maybe your insurance covers some home services. For example, you might get help bathing and dressing your spouse, or your spouse could go to physical therapy to recover better.
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