7 Ways to Cope When Your Spouse Faces Health Issues

When the one you hold dearest faces an illness, there will be some caregiving shifts in your relationship. Here are some uplifting tips to help you persevere through these changes.

Posted on Jan 10, 2017

A senior couple holds hands

Content provided by the Good Samaritan Society.

Cathy Rosch’s relationship with her husband, George, shifted when he suffered a traumatic brain injury and she became his caregiver. She's learned some valuable lessons about adjusting to changes in her relationship. Here are seven tips Cathy has for couples facing similar situations.

1. Make the best of the situation. From what I learned about brain injuries, personality changes are a big thing. He could either turn into this wild man, or this very insecure person, with child-like emotions. And I guess he's got the childlike emotions. I remember thinking that one was the better of the two, if I had to make a choice.

2. Help your partner—and others—understand new limits. He threw a temper tantrum in our doctors' office, and we all knew what was going on, but I was so embarrassed. Yet I knew he couldn't help it. They wanted more from him than what he could give.

3. Seek other champions to support your spouse. He had one therapist he really kind of grasped onto and felt very secure with her. During his progress meetings, he had to make sure I was on one side of him and Linda on the other side of him. Then he could proceed.

4. Express frustration in your mind, but not your mouth. I can't tell you how many times at night we go through what's going to be on TV. And sometimes it's again within 10 seconds. And I just want to go 'Really? You're just pulling my leg; I know you are, because we just talked about this.' But I can't say that to him. That's just not right. But I'm thinking it. I can think a lot of things, but my actions have to be different.

5. Wander between worlds if you need to, but find support. We went through a time where he was pulling away from me. We saw a therapist, and I said, 'He is in a totally different world now.' And I had to either learn how to live in his world, or live in my own world.

6. Let go of the past. We moved into a place where it's easier for George to function as a normal human being, be independent, do some of the things he likes. And in doing that, we left that bad world behind.

7. Find release in your other roles. He couldn’t stay alone, and I didn't feel I could go places and leave him alone — I did that all during the week — so it just wasn't fair to do it on the weekend. For me, work became a separate entity. I could go there and know that George was OK, and safe, and forget about him. I used to feel so guilty about that, but it was my way of letting my stress out.

Changing health issues can put a strain on your relationship. But there are ways to cope.

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