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When a Spouse Becomes a Caregiver

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When a Spouse Becomes a Caregiver

By: Jason A. Penrod, B.C.S., CELA

 

As I’ve written previously, no one desires to contemplate a future that involves needing long-term care.  This is especially true for married couples who don’t want to imagine that their spouse will need such care.  However, the statistics demonstrate that it is likely that at least one spouse will need long-term care and that their respective spouse will be one of the providers.

To spouses that may find themselves in the caregiving role, my advice is the following.  Please prepare in advance and understand that you do not need to fulfill this role alone.  Rather, you will want to ask for and be able to accept assistance (which is often the most difficult part).  If you have adult children, be honest with them about the care needs, and be willing to request their help.  There are also support groups that one can join that will often help the caregiving spouse feel less isolated.

The consistent goal for a caregiving spouse is to ensure that he or she is taking care of oneself.  If you run yourself down and never take time for yourself, two things inevitably will occur.  First, you will not be the best caregiver since you will be exhausted.  Second, you have a greater chance of becoming ill yourself.  And if the caregiving spouse becomes ill also, we have what I refer to as “Double Trouble”.

To prevent “Double Trouble” from occurring, adult children and loved ones of a caregiving spouse should extend their willingness to help.  Offer to take a shift and let the caregiving spouse get away for a little.  If you are an out of town loved one, contact the caregiving spouse frequently and check in on him or her.  Perhaps you can offer to pay for a home companion so that the caregiving spouse can take a little break.

I have helped many couples and families in crisis cases where clients have not afforded themselves the options that others have due to a lack of foresight on this issue.  For example, many families are forced to scramble around at the last moment to determine how to pay for such care.  To avoid such a crisis, you should consider contacting a knowledgeable Elder Law Attorney (preferably one that is Board Certified in Elder Law) to assist you in creating a plan that will suit your needs.

Jason A. Penrod is only the 20th attorney to be Board Certified as an Elder Law Expert by the Florida Bar and the National Elder Law Foundation.  He is the founder of Family Elder Law (www.familyelderlaw.com) which has offices in Lakeland, Lake Wales, and Sebring, Florida.

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