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Saving the Helper Spouse from hitting the wall – or worse!

We see the struggling “Helper Spouse” situation almost every week. This is a sad real life situation where one of the spouses starts to decline in physical or cognitive health and the other one tries to take up the slack. The problem is that the helper spouse has problems of their own. For example, it’s not uncommon to see one spouse develop Alzheimer’s and mobility problems while the Helper Spouse has heart problems, mobility issues or a myriad of other possible serious health issues.

If Mom is the helper spouse and she is trying to help Dad (who outweighs her by 100 pounds) get in and out of bed; on and off the toilet; and in and out of the shower – it is not a huge stretch of the imagination to see how a major health event or a fall could negatively impact both of them.

The Helper Spouse may have promised their sick-with-Alzheimer’s spouse that they would never allow them to go to a nursing home. They promised that each of them would remain at home and if either of them declined in health, the other would make sure that both remained at home.

A Good Plan at the Time

This sounded like a good plan when it was made. At the time the promise was made, both of them were healthy and they could never imagine how bad that “bad” would actually be. Additionally, both spouses love each other deeply, they wanted to stay together at home and (at the time) they saw no reason that this plan couldn’t be a reality.

Hitting The Wall

But now things have changed significantly and the Helper Spouse wonders how much more they can endure. They are physically and emotionally spent!

  1. Now the sick-with-Alzheimer’s spouse has declined a lot cognitively. On most days, the cognitively sick spouse doesn’t even know the Helper Spouse or may think the Helper Spouse is their Dad or their brother.
  2. The Helper Spouses’ physical health has slipped a lot. Taking care of their beloved sick-with-Alzheimer’s spouse hasn’t helped. The increased stress load has taken a toll. Their doctor may have warned them that things had to change soon or else!
  3. Sometimes the stress has reached the point where the Helper Spouse doesn’t think they can “do this” even another day. They are not sleeping at night and are stressed to the max. Their kids live out of state and don’t see a way to help. Their friends don’t know what to do and stay away. The Helper Spouse sees no relief in sight. They need help and need it now!

Tips for the Helper Spouse

If you are the Helper Spouse reading this, don’t despair! There is help available. Here are a few ideas.

  1. If you are reading this early in the process of your spouse’s cognitive decline, you may have the gift of time. But don’t take this for granted. Instead, take advantage of the time you have available. Your spouse’s physical or cognitive conditions may continue to decline and you don’t want to be in a position of having to make hasty decisions.
  2. Use this time to talk to prepare. For example, talk to financial and legal professionals; talk to your adult kids; interview non-medical care companies; and make your home easier to navigate, complete with wheelchair ramps, wider interior doors to the bedroom and bathroom, roll-in showers, rails in the bathroom and by the entrance doors.
  3. Tour local assisted living facilities and skilled nursing facilities. Neither of these are considerations now but you should know what is available in case you need this level of assistance in the future.

Tips for the Adult Kids

We see may adult kids who love Mom & Dad and really want the best for them – but they are busy. When they ask the Helper Spouse how things are going and hear “we’re doing fine”, they take this at face value without delving deeper and move on. Their gut tells them that things aren’t fine but they just don’t have the time to do anything to help, so they really hope this is the case.

If you are one of the adult kids, and suspect that one of your parents may be struggling as described above, it may be time to trust your gut.

It may take less time than you would imagine to craft a Mom Centered Family Meeting Plan to help your parents improve their quality of life substantially. If you need help with a situation similar to this, we are taking on a few private clients at Help Me Help Momma. You would not be a law client – instead you would be a Help Momma planning client.

Best wishes to you as you begin the steps to set your plan into action!

We want to be friends!

Ok. That might come off a little fast, considering we barely know each other. However, we fully understand the stress and turmoil that you are facing as Family Caregiver – including personal experiences with burnout.

In our time as caregivers, we have amassed a wealth of knowledge that we desire to pass on. Likewise, we have met many professional caregivers, as well as other family members who were thrust as Family Caregiver. All caregivers have shared the same advice – Join a community! There is nothing more cleansing for our situation than knowing that we are not alone!

We have since created Caregiver Connection. Caregiver Connection is a newsletter that we write personally and send to fellow Caregivers. It is full of tips, tricks, and even professional advice. If you would like to sign up, click the button below.

Please Invite Someone to Our Newsletter

Being an Adult Kid who is helping mom as she is declining can be a scary, frustrating and lonely place lacking stability. You feel like you are solely responsible for solving Mom’s problems while managing yours. Some occasional input and a community to plug into would help, especially when facing burnout! This is a way that all of us can be working together as caregivers!

Many others that you may personally know are having to figure it all out by themselves. Most of them have no community. Please take a minute and do them a favor. Copy this link – – and send it to them in an email or private message. They can click on it and subscribe to our newsletter for free.

Then they can enjoy weekly tips and encouragement. They no longer have to feel so alone in their family caregiver journey. They will appreciate the favor! Thank you for thinking of them!

Thank You for being a Caregiver for Your Loved One – you are making a huge difference in their life!

About the Author

Doug & his wife Cindy have not only helped hundreds of families with their estate planning and elder law needs over the years, but have personal experience as caregivers and advocates for their Loved Ones as well.

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