A Relationship Survival Guide for the Sandwich Generation
How to stay connected when you or your spouse are looking after elderly parents
By Shela Dean
Caregiving elderly parents requires dedication of time and emotional reserves. Your resources are finite. What you give to one you take from others. Your job, relationships, and marriage often pay the price. In a survey by Care.com, 25% of respondents said caregiving played a significant role in their divorce, 80% said it caused a strain on their marriage, and 89% said caregiving caused them to spend less time with their spouse. That’s the bad news.
Here’s the good news: Your marriage will survive, even thrive, if you do the following:
Keep in touch. Talk regularly about the problems and conflicted feelings that arise. Let your partner vent, and resist the urge to do anything other than listen. Once the venting is done, talk about solutions to the problems.
Make your marriage a priority. Observe daily rituals: Take a walk, have morning coffee, or shower together—no matter how busy you are. While you may have less time together, treating together-time as sacred underscores the importance of your marriage.
Make each other a priority. Small gestures of thoughtfulness are reminders that you care. For example, when you’re sitting in the doctor’s waiting room, send your sweetheart a thinking-of-you text or email. A love note tucked inside your partner’s purse or briefcase, an offer to run an errand, a small gift, or any such gesture keeps you emotionally connected.
Get practical and emotional support. Ask siblings and other family members to step in and give you a break and to chip in financially, if needed. Join a support group.
Keep a positive state of mind. No matter how demanding your caregiving experience, don’t let it rob you of your sense of humor and joy in life. If you’re having a bad day, try to turn it around: Watch a funny movie, take a bubble bath, or do whatever eases your stress and gives you the few moments you need to regain a positive attitude.
Be willing to consider alternatives. Caregiving can be, and often is, more than one person can handle, especially when caregiving is done at home. Don’t feel guilty if it’s just too much and you need to move to Plan B.
Caregiving is demanding, no doubt about it. But, with care, your marriage or partnership will survive and may even grow stronger for having gone through the experience together.