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How to Navigate Changes in Your Relationship as a Caregiver

How to Navigate Changes in Your Relationship as a Caregiver

Becoming a caregiver to your loved one can often be stressful, emotional, and overwhelming. Your dynamic with your loved one will undergo many changes over your caregiving journey, and learning how to navigate this new normal will ensure you and your loved one continue to enjoy a healthy and fulfilling relationship.

Learn new ways to connect with your loved one

Your loved one may no longer have the cognition to relate to you in the same way, or their illness may cause them distress and frustration, leading to outbursts or frequent arguments. You may begin to feel as though you’ve lost the parent, spouse, or relative that you knew. Illnesses such as dementia can especially leave caregivers mourning the relationship they had with their loved one, but you can learn new ways to connect that accommodate their new reality. Share memories or look through old photos to stimulate their mind if they have Alzheimer’s disease, or try new games and seated activities if they now have limited mobility. Your relationship may look different now, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still share a meaningful connection.

Be empathetic

This may seem obvious, but caregivers often struggle to remember that simply being present and understanding is more important than fixing every problem your loved one is experiencing. Trying to accommodate every emotion or symptom may leave you feeling overwhelmed or even guilty if you are unable to alleviate their pain or distress. Being a listening ear and validating their feelings goes a long way in helping them feel better, even if you can’t heal everything that ails them.

Balance their needs with your other responsibilities

Caring for a loved one takes a lot of time and energy. If you have children, a job, or other responsibilities, you may struggle to find time in the day to get everything accomplished. The added stress of these new responsibilities can put a strain on your relationship with your loved one and negatively affect your mental health. Make sure you are not spreading yourself too thin or neglecting yourself or others in your life. It’s OK to ask for help – whether that means enlisting the aid of other family members, friends, or even respite services if you are able.

Practice open communication

Communication is a vital part of sustaining any relationship. As a caregiver, always try your hardest to communicate openly with your loved one and be patient and compassionate. They may have difficulty understanding you sometimes or become easily agitated because they aren’t feeling well – but letting them know you are there for them will bring them comfort. Your loved one may also sometimes feel as if they are a burden – healthy communication can prevent these feelings and reassure them.

Take time for self-care

It’s important for both your and your loved one’s mental wellness that you take care of your needs as well as theirs. Carving out some alone time to relax and unwind is important to avoid caregiver burnout. Take a bath, read, do yoga, listen to music, or indulge in a creative hobby, such as writing or painting. Find something that brings you joy and be sure to schedule some time regularly to do it. Mental health is as important as physical health, and it’s impossible to be a caregiver if you don’t prioritize your own well-being.

Our Continuum of Care at Christian Health

We offer a variety of compassionate care services and housing for older adults with a range of needs. If your loved one needs additional care beyond what you can provide, such as skilled nursing or even home health care, Christian Health can support you. To learn more about our extensive senior-living continuum, please call (201) 848-5200 or visit