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When a Spouse Requires Care: How to Determine Your Senior Living Needs

I was fortunate enough to be interviewed for a blog post by my colleagues at Lexington Square regarding caregiving tips for a spouse. I would like to share them with you.

When it comes to caregiving to a spouse, there may come a time when additional help and support are needed.

In this helpful Q & A with Andrea Donovan of Senior Living Advisors of Inverness, she offers expert insight on how to best handle this situation, how to overcome caregiver guilt and how to create a social and wellbeing experience for both the caregiver and spouse.
LS: Andrea, why is planning ahead so important?

Andrea: In my opinion, it is better to research the caregiving options before the need even arises. If you have completed some preliminary research that addresses the costs and methods of payment for certain caregiving options, the levels of care available, the appropriate staffing levels at senior living communities, activities, food, and transportation schedules available, you will alleviate the stress of having to make last-minute decisions and avoid mistakes should a caregiving crisis arise. That way, you can eliminate options that don’t fit the senior’s needs in the long run.

LS: Many spouses experience caregiver guilt. What’s the best way to handle this?

Andrea: The best way to overcome caregiver/spousal guilt is to consider a move to a Continuing Care Retirement Community. It is the best option for couples to remain together for the rest of their lives since independent living, assisted living, and skilled nursing – and sometimes memory care – are all available on one campus.

The person who is independent can continue to pursue his/her interests by participating in activities, utilizing the pool or gym, and guilt is alleviated because the person who needs help receives the care from a trained staff. So, the person who is more independent can remain active and social and the spouse who needs the care doesn’t have to feel guilty because their living situation allows for both to have their needs met.

LS: How is a caregiving spouse affected if he/she doesn’t seek out help and support?

Andrea: If a spouse takes on the entire caregiving responsibility without seeking the right physical and emotional support, the caregiving spouse can experience emotional and physical burnout. This is a very serious situation. If the caregiver takes on more than they can handle physically, it endangers not only their health, but the health of the person who needs care. For instance, transferring someone in and out of the shower or on and off the toilet takes a specialized sort of lifting. If it is not done appropriately, it could lead to injuries to both parties. Additionally, there is a toll when isolation occurs and the caregiver and loved one can no longer go out and participate in social activities with friends. A senior living community includes social engagement – a critical component to healthy aging.
LS: Thank you, Andrea, for sharing this candid and helpful insight. Is there anything you’d like to add?

Andrea: In addition to what is written above, while home care is often an option chosen by a couple, the independent spouse still feels the obligation of being at home. It is often a lot of work supervising the caregiver, which is an additional responsibility.

Choosing the right senior living community will also alleviate the children of the seniors from taking on caregiving responsibilities. The need to take care of a home and the related expenses is alleviated. In the case where a spouse passes away, the living spouse will still have care available to him/her as well as outlets for socialization.