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National Family Caregivers Month: Caring for an Ailing Spouse (part 4)

November 19, 2013

November is National Family Caregivers Month, which honors the 48.9 million caregivers (according to the National Alliance for Caregiving) who help care for an aging loved one. At Concordia, we know the complexities of caring for someone with a chronic condition or disability, and we hope you all know that we're here for you for advice, for assistance, for support?

But most of all, we're here to applaud you for caring for those who need a helping hand. Please consider this our standing ovation.

The following article was written by Richard Sater, who cared for his wife Dolores for over a decade as she battled Parkinson's disease. While he was Dolores' main caregiver, she did use Concordia for a few short-term rehab stays, and attended Adult Day Services two or three half-days a week for a year. His hope is that by reading this story, family caregivers can be more prepared for some of the challenges that may lie ahead.

Richard is not an employee of Concordia and he isn't a medical professional and he would be the first to say that every situation is different. So like everything else you may read online, be sure to consult your physician or social service agency before taking on any caregiving responsibilities.

This is part 4 of 4. Feel free to leave a comment below and share this article.

Caring for an Ailing Spouse (Chapter 4)

Previous chapters of this document have dealt with basic care issues, details of some of the care requirements and some suggestions on ways to go beyond the usual care services. This final chapter addresses some thoughts and considerations when providing care at home is no longer effective or viable.

1-wedding dayMaking home care effective requires a commitment and input from both partners. If either partner cannot do that, don't do it at all find someone or some place that can provide the needed care without letting it become a point of disagreement. Even under the best of circumstances, there will be challenges and frustrations that require attention. Do the best that you can with them.

Though no one likes to think about such things, you need to take care of some end-of-life decisions. Do you want a funeral? Cremation? A service? End-of-life planning is never easy, and having an ailing spouse can compound the difficulty. If possible, involve your spouse in the choices. Inform your family. Make sure you put everything in writing. Update your will, if necessary, to spell out your decisions.

It is conceivable that the care you provide for your spouse at home eventually will not be enough. Conditions change, people change and it just may not work any longer. Perhaps the needs of your spouse become too great to manage, or perhaps the illness progresses to the point that medical monitoring is necessary. It is much better to have thought about this possibility in advance and have made a decision about how to handle that situation before a crisis arises.

It's a good idea to do some research. Planning ahead will make the process less stressful for you and your spouse. Check out the long-term care facilities in your area. Look online for ratings and feedback about them. Ask doctors and social-service providers for their advice and input to help you make an informed decision. Meet with customer-service representatives from the various facilities with a list of questions.

Visit prospective care facilities and talk with residents and their families. Some questions to ask include:

Is the home clean, well-lit and inviting? Observe how the staff treats its residents. Is there enough staff to manage the facility and care for the residents? Does the facility offer a variety of appropriate activities on a regular basis? How is the food? Does the staff provide feeding assistance if necessary? Is the staff able to supervise bathroom visits, or provide other personal-grooming services? What is the policy about taking a patient away from the facility for the day? (Is a doctor's approval required?) What about visiting hours? How will your spouse feel about living there?

Dolores 3There is nothing easy about the decision to move your spouse into a long-term care facility, particularly since there may be little or no chance that he or she will be able to return to your home.

The intent of these four articles is not to provide a complete list of issues to consider if you choose to care for an ailing spouse at home, as each situation is different. A number of the issues I faced while caring for my wife in the late stages of Parkinson's Disease are common to many situations, but your story will be different and will include some unique challenges. Identify them and deal with them as they arise so that they do not become major issues that defeat your primary goal: providing the necessary care and helping your spouse enjoy the best possible life.

Caring for an ailing spouse is a major responsibility, but it can also be very rewarding. You may find yourself (as I did) feeling closer to your partner than you ever had been before. When there is no more care to be given, the best that you can hope for is the comfort that you did everything you could.

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With over 130 years of service, Concordia Lutheran Ministries has a long history of helping seniors and their families. And as one of the most comprehensive providers in the country, we're able to find the right fit from a care and cost perspective.

Serving over 20,000 people annually, Concordia offers a lifetime continuum of care that includes adult day services, home care, hospice, medical and rehabilitation services, memory care, personal care, respite care, retirement living, skilled nursing, and medical equipment capabilities.

E-mail us here or call us today at 724.352.1571 if you have any questions about our services and whether or not we can assist you and your loved ones.

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