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Caring for an ill spouse

Elderly couple holding hands
Photo by Joern Pollex/Getty Images

Life can be very unpredictable. Everything in a relationship could be fine one moment, and, in an instant, it could all change. A wife starts showing signs of illness. The wife rests for a few days, but, she does not seem to be getting any better. A trip to the doctor, and a few tests later, reveal that the wife is very ill. The wife will require constant care as she recuperates. It is now up to her husband to care for her. The husband works a full-time job, and is now his wife’s care giver. One month later, she notices that he is exhausted and withdrawn at times. She feels terrible about putting him through this. She wonders if her illness is putting too much stress on her partner.

Situations, like the one above, are fairly common. A spouse becomes ill and unable to care for themselves. A spouse does not want to put the ill spouse in a home, nor do they want to hire someone outside of the family. They decide to care for the ill spouse on their own. With the great responsibility of taking care of a sick loved one, one wonders if this could take the spark out of the relationship.

In 2010, a study at the University of Buffalo, in New York, concluded that there was a higher percentage of positive emotion, when a spouse was actively involved in taking care of their sick spouse. Basically, this means that when a spouse is taking care of the personal well-being of their ill spouse, there is a greater level of comfort between them. Not only is the spouse’s illness being taken care of, the emotional well-being is being taken care of. The ill spouse can heal, maybe even faster, with a positive attitude.

The study also showed that a spouse engaging in passive care, showed a higher risk of negative emotions between the couple. A spouse that is not active in their spouse's care, can not only hurt the ill spouse emotionally, it could also hinder the ill spouse’s progress.

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