I was finally able to visit my brother and sister-in-law after COVID thwarted my best-laid plans for frequent visits. Since a diagnosis of Lewy Body Dementia, their lives have changed about as dramatically as one can imagine, but they are both working hard to get through this together day-by-day-by-day.
I was a caregiver for my mother-in-law for seven years, four of them fulltime in our home. I often refer to that experience when discussing caregiving. After one such comment, my sister-in-law said, “Caregiving for a spouse is different.” I know that this to be true. (I also know there are similarities and differences in all caregiving situations.)
Lewy Body impacts both the body and the mind. It, along with a whole host of other infirmities, can and does redefine a relationship. And especially with dementia there’s an ultimate sense of having lost your loved one twice.
The March 2021 Guideposts article “Spousal Caregiving: 5 Ways to Keep Your Marriage Strong offers good advice—albeit it may take some creative thinking to apply the suggestions to your particular situation. The overall message is to make time to enjoy each other in ways that go beyond caregiving needs.
- Redefine marital intimacy.
Savor physical touch in many forms that demonstrate caring and make each other feel good. I used to give my little one “lotion parties” after their baths. Try it with your spouse – you might like it! (And don’t forget those feet!)
- Fall in love with different personality traits.
I noticed how aware and concerned my brother is that his wife takes time for herself.
Don’t forget to appreciate your caregiver!
- Find new things to bond over.
Go through those boxes of pictures and pick out the best photos to relive and document your travels.
- Renegotiate your roles.
Identify those tasks you have to do. For example—you must eat. Daily routines can be a chore. Care Receiver—can you make up a menu for one breakfast, one lunch, and one dinner for the week? Choose some simple new recipes to make and help as you are able—even if that means just reading the recipe to the cook, one step at a time.
- Celebrate your anniversary. Enlist your family to help out—I’m picturing a special meal ala JH, MH as hostess, AH as garcon, and EH as entertainment!