When Caring For A Sick Spouse Shakes A Marriage To The Core

  • 2019-11-14
  • Kaiser Health News

For a dozen years, Larry Bocchiere, 68, didn’t find it especially difficult to care for his wife, Deborah, who struggled with breathing problems. But as her illness took a downward turn, he became overwhelmed by stress.

As her chronic obstructive pulmonary disease worsened and heart failure set in, Deborah was taking 24 medications each day and rushing to the hospital every few weeks for emergency treatments.

Marriages are often shaken to the core when one spouse becomes sick or disabled and the other takes on new responsibilities.

“You have to rewrite the relationship’s expectations. And the longer you’ve been married, the harder that is to do,” said Zachary White, an associate professor of communications at Queens University of Charlotte.

Compared to adult children who care for their parents, spouses perform more tasks and assume greater physical and financial burdens when they become caregivers, an analysis of 168 studies shows. Symptoms of depression as well as strains on relationships are more common.

Most of the time (55%), older spouses are caregiving alone as husbands or wives come to the end of their lives, without help from their children, other family members or friends or paid home health aides, according to research published earlier this year.