How to support a partner with chronic illness? From a man who supports his chronically ill wife.
So, how to support a partner with chronic illness?
How to support a partner with chronic illness? Well, I have for you 15 caregiving tips on how to support your chronically ill loved one, and it’s all based on my own experience in supporting my wife who suffers from endometriosis and fibromyalgia.
A chronic illness is really tough to deal with for your loved one. Nobody wants to see their partner suffer, especially, if you don’t go through it yourself. It can be very hard to know how to support your loved one.
Aside from that, caregivers who support their spouses are very often forgotten and we are required to be psychological experts because chronic illness impacts their mental health.
We care for them ignoring our own needs. We put their physical, emotional, mental health before ours. It can be incredibly difficult to gather your own thoughts, let alone focus on what you need to do.
But I’ve got the answer to the question. Below I answered it shortly, but I expand in more depth on these 15 caregiving tips.
Speaking as someone who knows how to support a partner with chronic illness, I give you 15 caregiving tips that will help you achieve this because even in the most loving marriages (like my own), it can be really hard. You feel trapped, out of control, and helpless…
Here are, in a nutshell, 15 caregiving tips on how to support a partner with chronic illness:
- Find support.
- Get help.
- Make time for yourself.
- Be kind to yourself.
- Identify personal barriers.
- Try to be patient.
- Don’t stop learning.
- Remember your loved one.
- Approach caregiving with your heart.
- Be respectful.
- Be sensitive.
- Trust in your ability to be a caregiver.
- Know your limits.
- Try not to be judgemental.
Any relationship can be difficult to maintain, but if you add a chronic illness into this mix, like in my marriage, saying “in sickness and in health” is easier said than done. Having a chronic illness, such as endometriosis and fibromyalgia, can negatively impact even the strongest relationship.
Chronic illness often shifts the balance in the relationship. The more responsibilities the caregiver needs to take on, the greater the imbalance. If you’re providing care, you can start to feel overwhelmed and resentful.
I’m sure you felt that way, and soon after you felt guilty of your thoughts. Whatever they are, they’re natural. You shouldn’t be ashamed or afraid of them, because they are just thoughts, you don’t act on them. You have every right to feel resentful and angry.
But I want to help you with that. I want to share my knowledge based on 13 years of caring for my chronically ill wife. Below I share more light on the above caregiver tips…
15 Caregiving tips!
1. Find support.
Feeling angry eventually makes you feel guilty and alone, so talking to other people who also care for a family member can be helpful for you to cope. You can google support groups on Facebook or Twitter and join them to connect with other caregivers who have similar experiences as you.
I found people from various online support groups genuinely helpful. It is the best way to do it because you can’t go alone through this. Otherwise, you will reach caregiver burnout.
As the caregiver, you shouldn’t be ashamed to seek help both for your own well-being and to get support in caring for your partner. So get help!
2. Get help.
Ask for help in order to find new ways to provide care for your spouse and seek help for yourself from others too. It’s not always about your partner, you need to help yourself too.
Consider hiring someone to help you with chores or childcare. Family or friends may be willing to assist you. Consider making a list of family, friends, neighbors, or even local organizations who can help and what tasks they are available to do.
That brings me to the next point of making time for yourself…
3. Make time for yourself.
Spending time doing something you like can give you a much-needed break. Taking breaks will help you to be an effective caregiver. Spend more time with other people who are important to you. They are important for your well-being.
If you cannot enjoy life and give yourself a break, you will eventually burn. help yourself. Otherwise, you won’t be able to support your chronically ill loved one.
If you’ve ever been on a flight, you’ve heard the crew say to put your own mask on first before you help others. That’s because, in the event of an emergency where there are low cabin pressure and oxygen you are likely to blackout, and at that point, you can’t help anyone else.
And how to support a partner with chronic illness if you cannot be kind to yourself?
4. Be kind to yourself.
Many caregivers experience occasional anger or frustration. It makes them feel guilty for having these feelings. In order to cope with these difficult feelings, you could include talking with supportive friends, exercising, or journaling.
Writing a blog is one of the best ways to cope, you express how you feel and help other people at the same time.
Kindness is something most of us already know how to do because we have done it with others. We can be kind to a chronically ill loved one, but we never do it ourselves.
People who have greater levels of self-compassion tend to be more motivated. Every evening I thank myself for what I achieved.
Unlike my chronically ill wife for whom it’s difficult not to judge herself, I always go to bed thinking about what I achieved that day, and how to be kind to myself.
5. Identify personal barriers.
Pushing yourself, doing too much, and not setting personal barriers can stand in the way of caring for yourself. If you don’t take care of yourself, it will become a pattern.
One of the 15 caregiver tips on how to support a partner with a chronic illness is the fact, you must ask yourself: “What good will I be to the person I care for if I become ill? If I die?”
Breaking old patterns and overcoming obstacles is not an easy proposition, but it can be done, regardless of your age or situation. The best task in removing personal barriers to self-care is to identify what is in your way.
Unfortunately, many people view self-care as a luxury, rather than a priority. Such a way of thinking makes them feel overwhelmed, tired, and ill.
This is probably one of the most important rules in any relationship, and it’s even more vital in a relationship with chronic illness.
For the person supporting the one, it can often be difficult to know how best to care for them. Encourage your partner to be as honest as possible with regards to how best you can support them.
Often times your loved one will be glad to know you take interest in wanting to understand their illness. But keep the discussion about the disease open to avoid feeling distant from one another.
Relationships suffer because people do not talk about their problems. It’s as simple as that. A lack of discussion leads to feelings of distance and a lack of intimacy. You need to try and find ways to talk openly to your partner about the things that bother you.
Your spouse shouldn’t judge you – we all have issues we want to resolve, that includes your loved one. You have to find a middle ground by allowing both of you to express what you feel, and listen without judgment to one another.
7. Try to be patient.
What they say is true – patience really is a virtue! It’s true when it comes to being a caregiver!
There will definitely be times when it doesn’t seem like you can continue.
This is where self-care can be very helpful, so take some time out for breathing, meditating, going for a walk, or eating well instead of taking out your frustrations on the person that you’re taking care of.
Patience shows your loved ones that you value them and your relationship enough to see beyond their “faults.”
However difficult, by making yourself open to what your partner brings to the relationship, show that you appreciate them.
8. Don’t stop learning.
Learn as much as you possibly can about your loved one’s condition. It may be endometriosis, fibromyalgia, or other chronic illness, but being armed with knowledge will help you provide the best care. You can provide the courage and power you need during difficult times.
Listen to your partner when they talk about the physical and emotional impact their disease is having on them, along with what the symptoms and side effects are. Read articles, books, ask other sufferers online.
I found that the more knowledge I gained, the easier our life became.
9. Remember your loved one.
The person you are caring for may seem or even look different. They may be someone completely different and no longer laugh as easily as they used to, they may forget things or even appear lazy and unmotivated. They may also see changes in themselves, which can be scary and frustrating.
Remember that negative emotions can manifest themselves as unusual behaviors such as yelling, or even refusing to speak. However, despite these changes, try to picture what that person you are caring for was like when they were well when you met them.
Remember that your loved one is still there inside their ailing body. Keep the faith!
10. Approach caregiving with your heart.
Being a caregiver is a very important job! If you let your heart lead your actions, you will have a very positive impact on the life of your loved one. Being a caregiver should be something that you want to do, not something you have to do.
Knowing that the person you care for is not a total stranger but your beloved partner or a member of your family should make you feel closer to them.
11. Be respectful.
This one is very simple. The person you are caring for may be physically or mentally impaired. After all, chronic illness impacts mental health, but it’s important to remember that your loved one still has an opinion.
Like it was in my own and my wife’s case, even someone who is unwell can teach you important life lessons. Respect their opinion. I do!
12. Be sensitive.
Try to be as sensitive as possible. Even your loved one may be unable to verbalize it, they may have a critical health problem or personal care need that you can help address.
13. Trust in your ability to be a caregiver.
Have faith in yourself, in being a caregiver. There is no perfect way to be one, there is no formula to it, perfection isn’t necessary. What is important is that you are doing your best. There will always be some days that are better than others.
14. Know your limits.
Being a caregiver does not mean that you have to respond immediately to every wish or issue.
If there is a problem that isn’t urgent and you can’t immediately get to it, acknowledge the request and tell your loved one you’ll help as soon as possible. Set boundaries, it will help you both in the long run.
15. Try not to be judgemental.
Oh yes! It can be hard… Remember that the person you care for did not choose to be chronically ill. It’s likely that they want to be and feel independent. If you try to put yourself in their shoes and imagine the challenges of being ill and unable to do what you may want to do, you realize, you have nothing to complain about. You’re healthy!
The number of partners providing care for their chronically ill spouse is rising. Living with a chronically ill person can be very demanding but at the same time rewarding.
The aim of this post was to describe my experiences and give you some clues on how to support a partner with chronic illness.
I hope that you found my 15 caregiving tips helpful.
Wishing you both all the very best! And remember, your chronically ill loved one doesn’t want to be defined by the illness. The more they feel like normal, healthy people, the more they will become that way!
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…