Question: Dear Luise: My husband is getting up there. He is 17 years older than I am, and I often feel insecure about how it will all play out. He is still great to be with as long as I don’t expect him to remember anything. In the “present” he is very cogent and contributes a lot to our relationship. He takes full responsibility for our dog and for doing the dishes and keeping the kitchen neat and tidy. He does some volunteer work once a week that he likes and he still enjoys reading. He can no longer drive, work the VCR or answering machine and has to be steered through the week with a daily bulletin board. I feel sad to see him slowly doing less and less and getting closer to the end. He is in his mid 90s. Do you have any sage advice for me? Thanks, Elizabeth
Answer: Dear Elizabeth: Not fun stuff. I’m walking this path with you. I would like you to look and see how well you are taking care of yourself. That’s of prime importance and don’t let anyone tell you it isn’t, or that such an approach is selfish and self-absorbed. You need to be very watchful to create balance in your life…to pursue hobbies, to have friendships that are meaningful, to have free time and to get away on a regular basis.
This is the only way you are going to be able to serve the man you love and not burn out. It’s a sad truth that perfectly healthy people who become caretakers often pre-decease their spouses. See what you can do to guard against that possibility. It sounds like your husband doesn’t need physical care right now, just watchful companionship and infinite patience. Both take energy and focus. As his needs increase, be sure you look into getting help so you will be able to see this through. Don’t wait until you are down for the count, seek help too early rather than too late. Look on the web for ideas and call you local Senior Center and Senior Services organizations if such valuable assets are available to you. Talk with friends in the same boat and discuss what you are up against with family. Discuss this with him and partner in these sunset years just as you have always done. He is your gift and you are his. Blessings, Luise