Intimacy and caregiving

Caring for a loved one can have a strain on any relationship, but it’s especially stressing for partners or spouses. Follow these tips to make sure that your relationship isn’t suffering because of your caregiving responsibilities.  

As a caregiver of your ageing parent, you face many challenges daily that can seem never-ending. We understand how hard it is trying to juggle your life and your loved one’s needs. Making a relationship or marriage work with the added stress from caregiving responsibilities is one challenge that you shouldn’t take lightly.

There are many aspects of a romantic relationship that are essential to keep that sweet balance – trust, communication, support, intimacy, respect, commitment. Making time and space for all of these will help you sustain your relationship through difficult times.

So how can you make sure that you look after your relationship with your partner while caring for an elderly loved one?

Team work makes the dream work – the key to communication and support

Communication is the founding block of every lasting relationship. It’s by talking through things and discussing actions and feelings that you and your partner remain in sync. Unfortunately, with the added stressors that come with caregiving, communication is often the first to go. After all, who has time to talk about stuff when there’s so much TO DO?!

We completely understand. However, communication is essential if you’d like to keep that balance between caring for your loved one and staying in a loving and supportive relationship with your partner.

Take the time to talk through things, whether they’re care-related or not. If you’re the primary caregiver, make sure your partner understands just how much effort and time goes into what you do, and take the time to explain why you do certain things a certain way. If your partner is the primary caregiver, make sure you facilitate some time for the two of you to connect and work on being in sync, so you can support them in the best way. Some people might need some pampering every once in a while, whereas others are happy if you do the chores they don’t have time for. Make sure you both understand the implications caregiving has on your relationship-dynamic right from the start, and actively work on communicating your feelings before they well up.

Don’t forget about the marital bed – intimacy and romance as a cargiver

The loss of intimacy in a relationship can be very challenging – we all crave closeness, especially during periods of stress. The emotional connection that once sparked intimacy and a sense of romance may suffer as new demands as a caregiver take over. You need to take steps to remain positive when caregiving changes your role with your partner or spouse.

Taking time for intimacy can be an invaluable source of comfort for both partners when they're facing a health crisis or managing a chronic illness. Physical intimacy is a way for a couple to affirm their feelings, strengthen their bond, and enjoy the time they have together.

Here are a few ways you can ways you can maintain or increase your closeness and intimacy:

  • Be honest with your partner about needs and desires, and how caregiving can affect both. This kind of sharing can preserve intimacy and talking about it openly may lead to an increased interest in keeping that fire alive.
  • Schedule in time to be intimate with your partner. As a caregiver, much of your responsibilities are on autopilot and so we can often forget about anything else. By scheduling a date night once a week, you will be forced to make time for your partner. If you can, try and get out of the house, even if only for a few hours – seeing a show or going to a restaurant can get the memories going of past dates, and set the mood for some romance and intimacy.
  • Talk with a specialist healthcare worker – such as a psychologist or social worker. If you want to work through your feelings without fearing judgment or are not sure how to broach the subject of sex or intimacy with your loved one, this can be especially helpful. Caregiver support groups can also be a good place to feel less alone. You're fairly likely to find plenty of others who share your concerns. For other queries faced by caregivers on a daily basis, read more here.

A little help goes a long way – respite care and other helpful resources

Don’t be afraid to put yourself first every once in a while and ask for help for the sake of your health – and also your relationship. There are different ways of getting some extra help, and these will depend on your personal circumstances. You can talk to other family members about the challenges you’re facing and ask them to look after your loved one every once in a while. Another option is paying for professional help – either to cover for you while you’re recharging, or on a regular basis to help with the workload.

It’s good to know that these services are subsidised and can be paid for by the government. Using Home Care Packages or respite care is a good way to relieve the pressure from your own caregiving and allow some of the stress of caring to be lifted.

Use the time to pursue some uplifting hobbies and recreational activities – by yourself or with your partner. In both cases, you’ll feel rejuvenated after a short break which will have a positive effect on all of your relationships.

 

With some effort put into it, you CAN make a relationship and caregiving work at the same time. While it may require some time, it’s definitely worth it for your own and your partner’s health. Why not start by taking some time off together and getting respite care for your ageing loved one? Click here to get started.

Still haven’t found the answer to your caregiving-related questions? A good place to start is our extensive guide to ‘Caring for elderly parents’ – click here to read more.

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