Keeping Our Marriage Together While Caregiving
Last updated: April 2023
It's after 11:30 pm. Most of the house is dark, save one, the bathroom. You can hear the owls hooting. The bedtime routine now takes at least 45 minutes, and you can add another 30 for a shower. We are spent.
This is the new normal, but it also changes all the time. I have less and less quality time with my wife as we care for her mom, who suffers from Alzheimer's.
The bathroom is adjacent to our bedroom, and the sound travels rather well. While this is difficult, I think I have come to terms that our personal, private lives have been indefinitely interrupted.
Still facing challenges together after 30 years
Much of my work requires me to leave the house before 6:00 am. I have transitioned from night owl to early bird. The same is true for other members of our household. We work early. We sleep less now, and that is okay. The real issue is maintaining a healthy marriage when things are so often chaotic and raw. How do we hold any level of communication and intimacy when there is so little privacy and quality downtime?
It's not easy. We have been married for over 30 years and have faced many challenges over the decades. This is another one. We raised 2 children, but this is very different.
How do we continue to pour into each other when we feel like we are never really alone like we are always "on call?" How do we maintain love and concern for each other when our emotional and physical tanks are empty?
We have a formula that is working for now.
We find time in our busy lives to communicate about how this is affecting us and then make any changes, if possible. We have to be intentional about that. We choose a time when we are not tired, hungry, or otherwise emotionally spent.
We will share the load for now. Our adult son, pursuing an acting career, has been helping by caring for her when we cannot. We are committed to the concept that "you do for family."
We chose to understand that "for better or for worse" applies in this situation. We have put some of our personal goals and dreams on hold for now and have extended our "bucket list." We lean on our faith during particularly trying days. We share these concerns with close friends who help us process these dynamics.
We learn from the AlzheimersDisease.net community about what caregiving really looks like and means.
Marriage involves unconditional love
Marriage can be difficult even in the best of times. It involves sacrifice and unconditional love but comes with a boatload of amazing things that can never be replaced, such as shared memories, accomplishments, and truly "being known."
Having a loved one in the family with Alzheimer's brings many of the same elements. Working through this with my spouse brings us closer together and does not drive us apart.
What about you? How does this affect your marriage, your partnership, your committed relationships? How have you maintained solid relationships during some very difficult times? What suggestions do you have to help others struggling in this area?
Do you think businesses can better accommodate individuals living with Alzheimer's and their caregivers?