How to Care For Your Sick Spouse
Whether your spouse has a temporary illness, such as the flu, or something much more serious, caretaking can take a toll on your own emotional health. Family members of the seriously ill often experience depression, anxiety and even acute stress disorder, according to the 2012 Society of Critical Care Medicine study “Family Response to Critical Illness: Postintensive Care Syndrome-Family.”
As you develop an efficient approach to caretaking and prioritize your own needs, you will assist your spouse on the road to recovery while making sure you maintain the energy and positive frame of mind you’ll need.
7 Steps to Care For Your Sick Spouse
1. Communicate your concerns with your spouse early on.
Take stock of your concerns and list . 1 them for yourself prior to talking to your sick spouse, writes medical psychotherapist Diana B. Denholm in her article “Are Your Caregiving Worries Harming Your Relationship?” for Psychology Today.
This may include your worries about what her illness will do to your marriage, anxieties about being a “good enough” caregiver, schedule conflicts, how to handle your children in terms of explaining the illness and meeting your spouse’s needs while still taking care of yourself. Ask your spouse for her honest input and let her know that you want to hear her concerns too.
2. Set up your home environment to better help your spouse relax and recover.
If there’s a concern about the spread of a virus or bacteria — or your ill spouse is extremely susceptible to germs — choose a room that isn’t shared. This may mean that you need to temporarily move out of your bedroom to let your spouse have his own space.
The room will need a bed, a table or tray area for medication or dining needs, a garbage can with a lid for any bio-hazard types of items, such as used tissues or bandages, and a close hamper for dirty linens.
3. Find a separate space for your sick spouse’s personal care items.
For example, your spouse has the flu and you want to minimize the risk of catching it yourself. Move her toothbrush into the guest bathroom instead of putting it in the holder next to yours.
4. Care for yourself.
Even though you’ll need to focus a hefty portion of your time, attention and energy on your spouse, don’t forget about your own health — both physical and psychological. People who are taking care of loved ones should still maintain social ties with friends and other family members.
Call a friend for a talk, go out for a quick cup of coffee with your sister or arrange for another family member to stay with your sick spouse while you spend an afternoon with pals.
5. Ask for help.
You don’t have to take on your sick spouse’s needs all by yourself. Talk to your spouse’s doctor for referrals for home nursing care or physical therapy, if needed, or for information on his condition.
Seek out the support of your family friends for the emotional issues that you’re going through. Depending on your spouse’s illness, you may also want to visit a support group at your local hospital, medical facility, religious institution or community center.
6. Stock up on the necessary medical equipment.
Talk to your spouse’s doctor about what you’ll need at home to keep her well. This may include equipment, medications or hygiene items.
If your spouse needs medical equipment, ask the doctor or medical provider where you can rent or buy the necessary items from. Check with your insurance provider to see if the cost is covered.
7. Maintain a clean and sterile environment.
Launder your spouse’s lines and clothing regularly. Always wash your hands before and after cooking, serving food to your spouse or helping with any medical care such as changing bandages.
To protect your own health, it’s important to wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, rinse them thoroughly and dry them with a clean towel, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Tips and Warnings
- Don’t compromise your own health. This means eating a healthy diet, getting rest and relaxing.
- Stay away from potential contagions. Don’t handle used tissues without gloves or protection, don’t share food or drinks with a contagious spouse and avoid close intimate contact such as kissing while your spouse is spreading germs.
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