Life as a Care Giver to In-laws

Are you living with a dependant in-law? Having a person shift into what used to be a nuclear family can be quite a drastic change. The dynamics of the family shift and your relationship with your spouse may be the first casualty in the whole scenario. Where once there was harmony and love, suddenly now there may be a severe case of burn out resulting in constant arguments and disagreements.

The ideal couple may suddenly be experiencing strife like they have never known before. There may be regular upsets of routine leading to frustration and anger. To be aware of what is happening to your partner as they look after your parents is a very important part of being able to deal with your changed reality.

The Challenge is Real

When you become a care giver to your parents or in-laws, there is a lot of anxiety and stress that makes a home in your heart. There are feelings of being overwhelmed with all their expectations. There is a constant worry about their medications, physical well being and daily requirements. All this can result in the care giver feeling tired all the time, not getting enough sleep, and becoming easily irritated or angry.

There is a sense of isolation that may set in for the care giver because they won’t have the time to participate in activities that they enjoy, or even simply spend time outside the house with friends. A sense of loss over the way life used to be can cause psychosomatic physical problems such as frequent headaches and body aches as well. Not to mention the gaining or losing of weight at a rapid rate.

Challenges Faced by the Couple

Financial Burden – A major source of strain in the situation is the financial burden that acting as a care giver to in-laws presents. One of the spouses has to take on the role of primary care giver, which usually results in the loss of the second income to the family. This can cause a lot of practical  problems arising from the drastic change in lifestyle that will be required. What was earlier easily accepted as part of life such as holidays or regular weekends out, may now become a once in a while luxury.

Fatigue and Frustration – In most cases the family may not hire a full time attendant for the incapacitated parent. This means that the physical demands on the care giver spouse will be considerable. This leads to fatigue and the inability to rest the body because the mind is constantly worries about the medical needs, and personal needs of the person. It may seem like all the time is taken up for the care giver leaving no time to rest and unwind. This is where the frustration sets in.

Relationship Time – A healthy marital relationship can endure even when there is a lot of stress and anxiety in the family. The presence of a sick parent who constantly needs attention can eat into the time that the couple usually reserves for each other. The married couple need to constantly support each other as their lives are run around the medical needs of the parent. It can prove exhausting and well as thankless when the patterns are repeated for days, weeks or months at a time.

Child Care Neglected – As the time is constantly being spent on the parent whose medical needs are  extensive, the married couple may find that they are spending less time with their children. Board games may not be played as often as they used to. The parents may not make it to the school events for the children. The friends of the children may not be welcome at home as it disturbs the elderly patient. It may come to a stage where the child care is neglected so an extent where the children may begin to resent the presence of the grandparent in the house.

Facing the Challenges

Fixing a Budget – There is always a limited amount of money and the couple need to know how to make it stretch. There need to be clean demarcation of expenses and the amount to be allocated for each of them. The medical bills are not optional, but the household expenses can be monitored so as to allow a bit more financial freedom. Having to liquidate assets may actually make life easier for everyone at this time. Consider taking on insurance early to make it easier to pay the hospital bills.

Find Time for Each Other – The idea is to be grateful for what each partner is doing to make life easier for the patient who is under care, as well as for the rest of the family. Being supportive of each other is vital, as is the constant communication of needs. Taking some time off to rejuvenate the care giver is not just important, it’s absolutely necessary. This means getting someone qualified in to look after the parent while the couple takes an evening, or weekend off to spend time relaxing in each other’s company.

For the Children – It is important to make time for the children each day. Not just on the weekend when everyone has a holiday. Even half an hour of quality time can make a huge difference to the children. The idea is to be available to the children for some time when they can share their opinions, needs and wants. Keep clear communication channels open with them. Involve them with age appropriate information about their grandparents.

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