On average, caregivers devote 20 hours a week to caring for a loved one. Keeping love alive becomes a challenge.
If you’re an unmarried caregiver for a parent with dementia, you may have noticed a slight downturn in your love life. Between that, a job, and kids, the last thing many people want to think about is dating. But companionship, intimacy and sexuality are core human needs that enhance psychological and physical well-being and can even reduce the stress of caregiving.
Here are a few ways unmarried caregivers can keep the flames of passion (or at least a few smoldering embers) burning bright.
Talk with your family
Tell your parent you need to start taking better care of yourself, which includes some time for dating. Assure your parent that you will still see them and that their needs will still be met. Enlist siblings, aunts and uncles, or other family members and friends to assist with caregiving.
Establish reasonable limits as to how much time you will dedicate to caring for your parent. Without them, the expectation may be that you will always be available. When you visit, tell them ahead of time how long you will be there and stick by your decision. Limit the number of phone calls you will answer and give family members specific times of the day they can call. Try to call them at regular intervals, so they know when to expect you. Knowing when you’re going to call should reduce the amount of calls you receive.
Before you visit, call your parent to find out if there is anything they need – groceries, a prescription, or reading material. This allows you to pick it up on the way, rather than being asked for these items upon your arrival.
Find solutions to your parent’s emotional needs
Loneliness is a major driver in a parent calling and asking for visits. If your parent lives in a senior living community, talk with the staff about your parent’s interests and how they could be engaged. Discuss how to get your parent more involved in activities that could lead to friendships. If your parent lives alone, look at connecting your parent with local senior centers, meal programs, and senior outings.
Be honest if a new relationship begins
If a new relationship looks promising, talk honestly about your parent and how much time you need to devote to caregiving. This provides a context for the relationship and explains why you may not always be available.
Seek help if you need it
Caregiving can be physically and emotionally stressful. Feelings of sadness, guilt and anger are common, which can lead to depression. If you feel yourself becoming depressed, seek help; whether from a licensed therapist, pastor, close friend or support group.
David Virden has been an editor and writer for 20-plus years. Senior issues have long been his passion. He has written about maintaining a healthy outlook in every phase of life and has volunteered his time and skills to organizations like Senior Services of King County in Seattle. He is one of the many expert authors who currently writes on behalf of Emeritus assisted living communities.
Slightly edited. (TCV Ed.)