5 Tips For Coping When Your Spouse Is Hospitalized
When your spouse is ill, life is difficult. Not only is there tremendous stress because of the constant doctors’ appointments and ever-present medical bills, but also there is the very real fear of losing your spouse, which, of course, makes people think about their own mortality as well. It’s one of life’s hardest challenges, and there is no easy solution or answer as to how to handle it.
In particular, when your spouse is hospitalized, it can be very difficult to cope. For some, there is a sense of guilt during a hospitalization because they feel that they should be caring for their spouse at home or because they feel a sense of relief at having some help after a long stretch of solo caregiving. Both are natural and normal responses to a very depleting, scary situation.
When your spouse is hospitalized, there are a few coping techniques that may help:
Get some rest: Just as we tell new moms, “Sleep when the baby sleeps,” so too should caregivers take advantage of moments of respite. When you’re caring for a sick spouse, a hospitalization is a difficult, stressful event for both of you. But it’s still a good idea to go home at night, eat a healthy dinner, and get a full night’s rest while you can. If you don’t take care of yourself, you won’t be able to care for your spouse when s/he comes home.
Ask for help: Reach out to family, friends, and colleagues, and let them know what’s happening. Particularly if you have other people to care for (young children, aging parents), having your spouse in the hospital is a significant logistical challenge. Let people know if you need help getting your kids to school, time away from work, housekeeping help, or other assistance. Often, help is only as far away as the phone if you’re willing to make the call.
Talk about it: Seeking a counselor, whether s/he is a spiritual counselor, clergyperson, or mental health professional, can be truly beneficial when your spouse is seriously ill. The right counselor will help you process through any feelings of guilt, ambivalence, sadness, fear, resentment, desperation, and exhaustion. S/he may be able to connect you with a group for spouse caregivers where you can connect with others in similar situations. Some people find this group dynamic with online chat rooms and bulletin boards dedicated to specific health concerns or life situations. Finding people who can relate is tremendously helpful, no matter where or how that comes about.
Make a plan: If your spouse is hospitalized due to a potentially life-threatening situation, take the time away from caregiving to ensure that all of your estate-planning documents are in order. No one likes to think about end-of-life decisions, but you and your spouse may feel a great sense of relief in knowing that these important decisions have been made and are properly documented.
Be present: It’s easy to fall into the trap of just sort of going through the motions when your spouse is hospitalized. Make time to be present with him or her and engage about something other than the illness. As well, make it a priority to give your attention and focus to your children during this time. Be mentally and physically present with them to help them through any fear they may have while their other parent is absent.
By engaging with your spouse and kids; asking for help; planning for all possibilities; talking to supportive counselors, family members, and friends; and taking care of yourself, you can get through your spouse’s illness and hospitalization. It is an indescribably difficult time, yet you don’t have to go it alone. Reach out. Good luck.