Love for caregivers on Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day can be rather depressing for those who don’t have a sweetheart or whose special loved one has passed away. It’s also sad for caregivers whose Valentine is no longer able to do something special.

Marriage changes when one of you takes on the role of caregiver. You’re still the spouse, but eventually the role of caregiver becomes the larger; you can start to feel lonely, overwhelmed, unappreciated, and depressed.

For example, if your loved one has dementia, he no longer does romantic things (or even remembers that it’s Valentine’s Day). Most of the romantic things your partner once were linked to his ability to realize that you would like to get flowers, hear “I love you” or be taken care of. As their memory fades, your romance seems to fade with it.

Or for partners who are sick or in pain, there’s just not enough strength in the body. Although they might think of buying you chocolates, they no longer have the energy to shop or ask for help. Loved ones who are depressed, grieving or anxious might not be able to see beyond their current feelings to do something for you.

But caregiving can include helping your loved one do the caring things they can do that bring you joy despite the circumstances. An art teacher told of a class where they were painting a bouquet of flowers. The teacher encouraged each student to give one of the flowers to someone after class.  One student, who had dementia, ended up giving the whole bouquet to his wife when she arrived first. He had probably wanted to give her something for months but could not. The joy both he and his wife felt were gift enough for all the other participants who got no flowers.

As caregivers, we need to know and express our own needs. If you would like a hug, ask for one. If you wish your husband could give you a card for your anniversary, ask your adult son to help him prepare. Allowing your loved one to express her or his love for you helps both of you.

Also, find a friend who you can tell your feelings to.  Talking to a caring friend can help us accept the sadness, grief and loss associated with our loved one’s illness. Acceptance of sadness allows us to move past it. Support groups can also help caregivers feel more understood and prepared to face whatever illness arises.  Contact Eunice Lehmacher for a list of Seneca based support groups Eunice.lehmacher@prismahealth.org).

Taking steps to get our needs met and accept our feelings helps us be better caregivers. What do you need to do to prepare for Valentine’s Day and other tomorrows?

Wanting a valentine doesn’t make us selfish; it’s normal to want romance in your life.  As a caregiver we have to care for ourselves as well so that we can take care of our loved one and our relationship.

Above article initially appeared in The Journal and was written by Eunice Lehmacher, LISW-CP,  a social worker for Prisma Health Oconee Memorial Hospital where she helps caregivers of persons with dementia. 

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