How to help your caregiver? Tips for chronically ill partners.
How to help your caregiver?
How to help your caregiver if you cannot find much information about it?
There are mountains of blogs dedicated to sufferers of chronic disorders, but in comparison, there’s a handful of blogs dedicated to their caregiving partners.
Besides, you aren’t a caregiver yourself, instead, you’re the one who suffers. So how would you know what he needs?
I sat and wondered… I’m a husband behind his chronically ill wife suffering from endometriosis and fibromyalgia.
My full-time job is caregiving for disabled young adults, but I also support my wife after work.
I am a caregiver 24/7, with 13 years worth of experience in both – professional and spousal caregiving. I have all the tools needed to answer your question.
My blog helps spousal caregivers solve their caregiving problems, but it also helps their chronically ill partners understand how to help their burden.
Caring for your caregiver is a key component in a long-term relationship when you’re chronically ill.
Without help, he’s more likely to become exhausted and severely stressed. That can lead to serious health problems and limit his ability to care for you.
This post answers your question. Here’s how to help your caregiver when you are chronically ill:
You need to help him to get past “fine”, he is most likely not fine. Listen to him more and advise him less… It is very important that you encourage your man to take care of himself and practice more self-care. Try not to overwhelm him with tasks, it will give him more time to focus on taking care of himself!
Preserve your relationship, you are still a couple, don’t forget that. Encourage him, however, to do things without you, and let him know how much you value his help. Help him accept his new life because he sacrificed the old life he’s used to, to a new, uncharted territory.
If your caregiver finds things overwhelming, ask family or friends to relieve his duties. It’s a great idea because you can trust them. If that is not possible, think of hiring help for non-caregiving tasks. If you struggle financially, you can always find local volunteers to help. And don’t forget that you can always use respite care, which will help both of you to get deserved time off.
Help him to get past “fine.”
How to help your caregiver get past “fine”? Hmm… Even I used to say “I’m fine.” One reason was the fact that I thought she had enough to deal with, and if I complained how I felt, it would add to her burden.
I understood that the number of emotions I was going through would take forever if I tried to explain them. But I was wrong – she had time to listen. She also wanted me to be honest with her.
Tell your partner that he’s allowed not to feel okay.
Listen more, advise less…
The second way to help your caregiver is to remember that men are different from women. You probably heard that men are from Mars and women are from Venus. What does it mean is that men are problem-solvers and want to fix things?
Women, on the other hand, like to connect and like to listen more. However, when it comes to helping distressed and weary caregivers, you are prone to giving tips, inspiring stories that lighten our mood.
For us – caregivers like myself, who always seek advice, this can be really helpful. However, for caregivers who don’t like being given advice, it feels like an intrusion or even criticism.
Everyone is different and has their own caregiving methods. Instead of offering emotional support, be present and just listen.
Don’t worry, he will pick your brain if he needs any direction. In conclusion, it’s best to listen and advise less.
Encourage his self-care.
There’s a tendency for all caregivers (including myself) to ignore any medical or psychological symptoms that we might develop because they aren’t as severe as yours.
We feel, even though we sacrificed our old life, we simply cannot compare it to yours. After all, we’re not in pain, we’re free to live fully, and we would feel guilty if we moaned at any little thing.
What does it mean for you? It feels good that he doesn’t want to overwhelm you with his struggles (I get 5 stars for hiding my emotions) but as a result, you may have to encourage your man to seek help.
The last thing you want for him is to be in need of serious medical or psychological help. If that happens, he’d be no help to neither of you.
So, encourage him to take care of himself, so he doesn’t get too stressed, which leads to caregiver burnout. What follows after is depression, which will stand in the way of caregiving for you.
Don’t overwhelm him with tasks!
Speak honestly with your man about what he can reasonably do for you and what he struggles with.
He needs to remember that no one is unbreakable. Even I thought that. Girl, was I wrong!
If he gets often frustrated with something, ask him if he needs any help.
If you don’t discuss what it’s reasonable for him, he’s most likely to think that he has to do everything. This, again, can lead to caregiver burnout, depression, or worse.
At the very least it will compromise your caregiver’s health.
This is why you and your him need to make an honest assessment of what he can reasonably do.
Many of us (men) have been taught that asking for help is a sign of weakness, well, as it turns out, it’s not.
The bottom line is, if you don’t overwhelm him with tasks, you’ll have no reason to worry about anything.
Preserve your relationship.
Whether your caregiver is your partner in life, and that’s what we are discussing today, think about what made your relationship work.
Perhaps, like in my case, it was sharing a passion together.
Myself and M used to teach and perform the dance. Even though we cannot go on the stage today, we can still compete, when M’s health allows it, or at least dance for sport and mutual fun.
But you may no longer be able to do together with the things you once did. There is more you can do.
If you liked to play board games or cards, that’s something you may be able to do from the bed if you’re bedbound, do it. I often play chess with my wife.
If you liked to talk about certain movies, or even better – he’s kind of movies, engage your man in this as best you can. I often watch engaging documentaries with M.
You may also be creative and hardworking like myself and my wife. What does it mean? You can run a blog.
Despite the blog being my idea, and 95% of our articles focus on the caregiver’s perspective, my wife contributes to Worry Head greatly, writing once in a while her point of view.
Think of writing a blog about your illness and inviting your caregiving guy to write about how he feels.
Not only will it be a fantastic way for him to let go of his emotions, but it will also help you understand what he’s going through. And do not forget – you can both make money from it.
Writing a blog, and properly monetizing it, can bring you financial freedom, full-time being home for one another, and live a happy, more fulfilling life.
Encourage him to do things without you.
He might be reluctant to do enjoyable things for himself, and even though he really wants to, he’ll always put you first ahead of his needs. Your man most likely thinks that if he has to make a 100% commitment.
I always thought the same way, and where it led me was only frustration, impatience, even anger. So no – this isn’t true that he has to give 100%. No one can.
Not only is he expecting too much of himself, but it can also lead your partner to the same thing again – caregiver burnout.
I know he meant to be the man, be in control and all that, but I hope you’ll take the lead in convincing him how important it is to take time for himself.
Let him know how much you value his help.
This is the fifth way to help your caregiver. My wife told me countless times that if it wasn’t for me she wouldn’t be here. However it felt nice to be appreciated, it put a bit of pressure on me.
When you speak to him, try not to put such pressure. My understanding was that if I wasn’t there for M, she’d take her own life. Later on, I realized, it was a metaphor.
Today, she says “thank you” and she says it often. I am appreciated without feeling confused.
M also cooks for me whenever she feels okay, so when I come home, I have my dinner on the table. Knowing that despite her multimorbidity she does it for me, makes me feel really appreciated.
Making sure that your caregiver knows how much he is valued is a gift you can give him in return anytime.
Help him accept his new life.
Even though your condition doesn’t improve, you can still help your man accept what happened to both of you as a result of your illness.
Great idea is to remind him gently that life sometimes takes turns.
Even though it’s not how he imagined spending the rest of his life, the more he accepts what’s happened without feeling bitter about it, the better his life will be.
Surely you can find that this new life you both share has brought some benefits, such as the opportunity to spend more time together.
Whatever benefits you can think of, share them with your caregiver. For me and my wife are closeness, deeper intimacy, and understanding of one another.
Besides, we appreciate what other “healthy people” don’t, a singing bird, walking in the woods, the roof over our heads, the opportunity to travel the world together.
Oh, and my favorite – a nice cup of coffee…
Ask family or friends to relieve his duties.
Even though your partner acts like he can cope with everything, sometimes doing it all himself isn’t enough, it’s actually overwhelming.
But there are things you can still do to help your man. If you don’t know where to start, ask family or friends because maybe there are some things they could do to help.
It won’t be a hassle for them to do something now and then, but it adds up, and in the eyes of the caregiver it is a huge help and burden lifted off his shoulders.
Other family members might not see, or feel that you don’t want or need any help. Others just don’t realize how much time, energy, and sacrifice caregiving really takes because they are not in the position of your loving man.
In order to receive help from family or friends, have an open one-on-one conversation and let them know that you need their assistance.
This is as simple as that. You will be surprised by how many offers you get.
If you need help with direct caregiving, ease someone into it by having them shadow your partner. They are going to learn, and get comfortable before doing it on their own.
Hire help for non-caregiving tasks.
Over the period of 14 years of being a caregiver (professional and spousal), I found that there is a lot more responsibility than just caring for the person.
Sometimes it’s just too much to deal with, and so getting help with non-caregiving tasks takes a lot of pressure off your male caregiver.
I know he acts tough, he says he can do it all, but trust me – even for me – an optimist, it was extremely difficult to pull that off.
There is no shame in asking for help. Make your man realize that!
You can always hire a gardener, car mechanic, plumber, or electrician. He doesn’t have to do it all.
Additionally, you can always ask a neighbor to buy groceries and household supplies and pay them for their efforts. Most likely, however, they’ll do it for free.
Also, getting help with laundry or housekeeping has done can be helpful, even if they do it only once per month…
Find local volunteers to help.
You’d be surprised how many local volunteer programs or service organizations that provide help are there.
It’s just a question of looking, googling, or asking family and friends around.
Any help you can get will give your supportive man a little more time for himself. Contact your local agencies and ask them to connect you with volunteer services or organizations that could help with free caregiving.
Remember that plenty of students likes to volunteer to gain experience for their future jobs.
Use respite care.
Respite care can be a wonderful way to get out of the monotony for both of you, giving you breathing space, time off, time to unwind and relax.
Your partner deserves this much-needed break from caregiving and to protect him from being overwhelmed by caregiver stress and burnout.
It can be even as little as a day or two, but such respite will make you miss and appreciate each other.
Even the strongest of relationships need time to cool off.
Wrapping all up…
So, how to help your caregiver? Here’s, in a nutshell, a quick reminder of what you can do:
- Help him to get past “fine.”
- Listen more, advise less…
- Encourage his self-care.
- Don’t overwhelm him with tasks!
- Preserve your relationship.
- Encourage him to do things without you.
- Let him know how much you value his help.
- Help him accept his new life.
- Ask family or friends to relieve his duties.
- Hire help for non-caregiving tasks.
- Find local volunteers to help.
- Use respite care.
I’ve seen enough struggles of my wife to know that living with chronic illness isn’t easy, to say the least, but being your caregiver isn’t sunshine and puppy cuddles either.
You both have to learn to be a team in this new life, after all, you are in this together.
Time is your caregiver’s greatest gift. I missed so much not taking care of myself. You have to encourage your man to take time for himself.
You both need to find a way to stay together and relax more. At the same time, try to make yourself available to listen to him as often as he needs.
By thinking of these little things one by one, you’ll see what a difference it can make.
Sure, caregivers are the unspoken heroes in the life of chronically ill people, but still, you both need to preserve your relationship, your marriage as much as you can.
I hope you’ll find your way to happiness on your journey through the unknown together!
Hi, I’m Lucjan! The reason why I decided to create this blog was my beautiful wife, who experienced a lot of pain in life, but also the lack of information about endometriosis and fibromyalgia for men…