Struggles of caregiving partners. Caregiver burden and mental health.
Struggles of caregiving partners.
Caregivers of partners suffering from chronic illness are at risk of being subjected to mental health problems such as anxiety, depression, and burnout. The struggles of caregiving partners are rarely spoken of.
This post aims to raise awareness about male spousal caregivers who look after their partners suffering from chronic disorders.
I’m a husband who supports his wife struggling with multimorbidity. She sufferers from two chronic conditions and their consequences.
My wife has endometriosis and fibromyalgia. Both cause her to experience daily chronic pain, and the impact on her mental health is vast.
General anxiety over the unknown future, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder trying to grasp some control over her life, and depression due to the loss of her old, full of vigor life.
That’s being said, she’s always looked after first, and I come second. Naturally, that’s how it was meant to be.
But why no one ever acknowledges how I feel? And what are the struggles of caregiving partners?
Here’s the answer…
Society expects spousal caregivers to support their partners never considering what they feel.
While spousal caregiving is a very rewarding experience, caregivers often face challenges that leave them overwhelmed, anxious, and/or depressed, and are intimidated by their duties.
Caregiver’s burden is highest among those who provide care to their partner because spousal caregiving involves many tasks on top of their own daily activities.
Aside from physical help, caregivers support their partners emotionally and mentally.
Because they don’t suffer from chronic pain, it doesn’t mean they are okay. Being a spousal caregiver brings a lot of challenges, including:
- Managing time.
- Emotional and physical health.
- Lack of privacy.
- Financial strain.
- Sleep deprivation.
- Not wanting to ask for help.
- Depression and isolation.
It’s difficult to manage a balance between caregiving and own life.
Struggles of caregiving partners.
It is important to remember that as a caregiver, you need to prioritize your health just as much as the person you’re caring for.
You have an important job, but doing it while not feeling okay can lead to many consequences for both – you and your spouse.
Caregivers who work with endometriosis and fibromyalgia sufferers report high levels of stress, higher than regular caregivers, especially when it comes to endometriosis.
Because boyfriends and husbands of women suffering from endometriosis have reduced sex life if any at all.
Women often report being left, marriages are broken. However, it is not anyone’s fault. It isn’t women’s fault they fell ill. It isn’t men’s fault either.
Male spousal caregivers can’t cope well with emotions. Their burden is high and the struggles of caregiving partners aren’t spoken enough of.
Spousal caregivers find that they have less time for themselves, this is definitely the case for me.
My wife isn’t disabled by the illness she suffers from, however, endometriosis changed her life entirely, not to mention fibromyalgia and its impact on her mental wellbeing.
Trying to be okay is her full-time job, however, I do my best to lift the weight off her shoulders, neglecting my own needs.
I do everything I can for her, and whenever she asks me to do something for her, I’m on it!
Even when I’m at work, I support her emotionally and mentally via phone, and when I come back, I help her with some physical tasks too.
I’m a caregiver 24/7. I never stop thinking about or helping her. To me, it’s a full-time job too.
Caregivers often spend so much time on their caregiving duties that they end up sacrificing the things they enjoy. They have trouble balancing work and caregiving for their spouse.
Emotional and physical health.
About one-quarter of caregivers report that their health has gotten worse.
Caring for someone with chronic conditions like endometriosis and fibromyalgia causes a lot of stress.
The physical demands of caregiving can also take a toll because of their repetitive nature.
I am a strong man who loves lifting weights, but with time, I began taking care of my M more as she needed my support. I stopped going to the gym and I became physically weaker.
My lovely wife was on a verge of suicide and I gave up my joy to be with her. It was my choice, not hers, but it affected me emotionally.
I became irritable and looked sad often despite hiding my feelings behind my optimism. It was still clear to my wife that I was hurting.
Despite my own battles I had to be strong for her as I’m not the one who’s chronically ill.
This way of thinking belongs to most of us. As for spousal caregivers, we feel the need to suck it up, take it on the cheek, and focus on being supportive.
Lack of privacy.
Spousal caregivers often report that they feel a lack of privacy in the home.
There might be a situation when a family member of your spouse trying to help invade your privacy often.
In the case of severe chronic illnesses where your loved one needs medical help, a presence of a nurse or other professional may feel like you’re never alone.
You want to share private time with your partner but her best friend comes often to be by her side.
All of these situations can be difficult, especially in smaller spaces. It is difficult to set boundaries because you cannot deny such help.
But to get away from constant interactions feels like an abandonment of your spouse.
The balance between work and caregiving can be difficult to manage.
Most spousal caregivers are unpaid, and at some point, they all start to feel some financial strain, especially when caregiving takes them away from a paying job.
That was exactly my case. I had to take 2 months of work on two separate occasions.
Luckily, my work is flexible, and luckily, I and my wife had enough savings to manage. But that isn’t the case for most couples.
A number of relationships break down because of the difficult balance between caregiving and work.
The longer the spousal caregivers provide care, the more financial strain they feel.
A lack of sleep can be a big problem for those who care for their loved ones and sleep in one bed.
Not only the pain wakes my wife up, and I have to apply CBD on her and give her a little massage in the middle of the night. There are more reasons for my sleep depravity.
She wakes up often with nightmares, she’s anxious over the coming day, and sporadically has a panic attack.
It takes usually 15 to 20 mins to reassure her, but my sleep is distorted already. Then, while falling asleep we usually chat to further reassure her.
She often wakes at 5 o’clock in the morning. That makes me stay up for 2 hours before I even leave for work.
These are just a few examples of the struggles of caregiving partners.
As often the loved one’s sleep cycle is distorted, sleep deprivation can take a huge toll on the spousal caregiver who’s already feeling the strain of being burned from the challenges of the day.
Not wanting to ask for help.
Despite all the above factors, being afraid to ask for help is a major problem for male caregivers.
Men don’t like to ask for help. Many of us feel ashamed to ask for help from others.
I always thought I could cope on my own, and for the majority of the time I can, but when I’m at work it’s impossible to give a 100% of emotional support.
This is why my lovely mother-in-law is there to help. We live with her parents, separately above them, but in the same house.
That really helps. Her mum is irreplaceable! It would be hard without her. I would have to quit my job all together if she wasn’t there.
The vast majority of caregivers think that asking for assistance may be a sign of weakness.
The caregiver in turn starts to feel guilty that they aren’t providing the best care that they could, but still, feel too proud to ask for help.
Depression and isolation.
The last reasons for the struggles of caregiving partners are depression and isolation.
The spousal caregiver is often at very high risk for depression because caregiving duties can take up so much of their time that they no longer maintain social connections at all.
Besides that, they have no time for themselves and do something they enjoy in order to escape the burden.
Caregivers need to recharge, but oftentimes it is not possible. Unless like me, you share the house with a family member that can step in to help, you have a high risk of getting depressed.
Spousal caregivers suffer from depression twice the rate of the general population. Feeling lonely is one of the main reasons for that.
Caregiving itself does not cause depression as it’s very rewarding, nor will everyone who provides care experience the negative feelings that go with depression.
Caregivers often sacrifice their own needs, and the emotional and physical toll affects even the most resistant person.
People experience depression in different ways, therefore every caregiver will experience it to a different degree.
To sum up the struggles of caregiving partners, I can say as the one who cares professionally and personally, that spousal caregiving is hard.
Managing time can be really difficult to do, and the emotional toll along with the physical health impact of it can make our life really difficult.
The lack of privacy is only one factor that can make us feel frustrated.
Financial strain and sleep deprivation make it spousal caregivers with a full-time job really hard to balance work and caregiving.
Not wanting to ask for help creates overwhelms those who support their loved ones, often leading to feeling isolated, which eventually leads to depression.
Taking more frequent breaks, respite care relief for your partner, positive self-talk and self-care, and doing the activities you enjoy are helpful in avoiding depression.
Look for support groups available on social media such as Twitter or Facebook. They are free, friendly, always available.
Additionally, caregiver support organizations can help you learn or practice effective problem-solving and coping strategies that are needed for your caregiving.
For your mental health and the health of the chronically ill person you care for, take some time to care for yourself. If you can’t help yourself first, you’ll be no help to your spouse.
All the very best!
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…