Supporting My Wife Emotionally in Our Caregiving

Caregiving is really taxing. It is challenging financially, physically, mentally, and emotionally. Nothing really prepared me to be a caregiver. I have felt even less equipped to support my wife, as she is the primary caregiver for her mom who lives with us and has suffered with Alzheimer's disease.

Sure, I can prepare a meal or 2 and help with changing a pull up. I can do added chores around the house. These are all great but supporting my wife emotionally has become even more important as we work together to make her mom feel loved, secure, and comfortable. Sometimes I feel she is her mom's primary caregiver, and I am her (my wife's) caregiver.

Partnership beyond the checklist

At the end of the day or the week, the emotional well can run dry. There comes a point from time to time when it feels like my wife needs me in ways that cannot be managed on a checklist. The "honey-do" list just won't help when a listening ear, an encouraging word, and a hand held is required.

This is where offering emotional support is the best support I can give. Here are ways that I support her emotionally.

Active, empathetic listening

I listen actively and empathetically. I put away my agenda and let her talk. I ask clarifying, open ended questions, and offer very little in the way of advice. I just let her get it out. If she wants to rant, she can rant. If she doesn't want to say much, we can just sit quietly.

I am aware of what her emotional needs are in the moment. I pay attention to her speaking tone, her expressions, her actions. Her emotional state normally leaks out and I try to pay attention to it and react in loving ways.

Space to connect

I intentionally create spaces to connect. We have "date nights" when possible. We plan time together that go beyond deciding what needs to be done, but also gives her the space to talk about how she is doing. We call this time "Open Forum."

I let her emote if she needs it. I don't have to fix everything. Sometimes, she needs a good cry. I am not scared by her emotions and want her to feel everything that will help her.

We have read books together and I incorporate what we have learned as I support her. For example, The Five Languages of Love by Gary Chapman helped me to discover that my wife loves special gifts and quality time together. These communicate love to her and helps fill her emotional tank.

How can I love you better?

These work for us. You may have things that work for you like going for walks or attending a house of worship together. This could be listening to music or simply having a set time each week to answer questions like, "How are you doing? What can I do to help you? What emotions are you feeling right now? How can I love you better?"

Being intentional about support your spouse or partner emotionally is at its core about assuring each other we are not alone and the person who loves them the most is always there in the joys and tears. It is a journey that my wife and I share together.

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