taking care of yourself keeps spousal care an act of love

I am my husband’s primary caregiver. Although a paid caregiver comes each morning to get him up, I’m the person on the job day and night. A while ago my husband was hospitalized for pneumonia and he spent three and a half days in the hospital. Shortly after he came home he had two more bouts of pneumonia, and his recovery has been slow.

I’ve been slow too. My husband needs more help than he used to, and often asks for help when I’m cooking a meal, writing at the computer, or doing laundry. “I’ll be there in a minute,” I call. But it’s never a minute and my husband knows this. Consequently, I often feel guilty for not providing instant service.

Guilt is the last thing I need in my overly-busy life. Gail Sheehy, in her book, Passages in Caregiving, asks caregivers not to succumb to guilt. “Guilt-driven caregivers and those culturally scripted to dedicate their lives to sick parents inevitably sacrifice too much,” she observes. At a time when we need to be lifted up, guilt creeps into our minds and drags us down. Your caregiving situation may be similar to mine. How can we make things easier?

Be specific

We can tell what we are doing and how much longer it will take. You may be making pudding, for example, and have to keep stirring, pour the pudding into a bowl, and put it in the refrigerator. An example from my life, “I just stepped out of the shower and am putting on my clothes. I’ll be there in five minutes.”  

Ask for specifics

Can your loved one wait a few minutes? Respond immediately if your loved one has fallen, is in pain, or not making sense. I posted a list of emergency phone numbers next to my high-volume phone. (I have a hearing loss.) In addition, I know how long it takes to get from our place to the hospital.

Be honest with feelings

Married for nearly 59 years, my husband and I have an honest relationship. I’ve told him several times that I feel guilty when I can’t drop everything to help him. His reply: “I’m not trying to pressure you.” Still, I feel pressured when the person I adore needs my help and has to wait for it. Although he says he understands, our situation hasn’t changed all that much, and my guilt feelings don’t go away.

Practice self-kindness

Swedish author Henrik Edberg, in his article, “Self-Kindness: 7 Habits that will Help You to Live a Happier Life,” posted on The Positivity Blog, thinks self-kindness include countering negative thoughts, finding time for ourselves, and focusing on the benefits of caregiving. According to Edberg some of these benefits are more perseverance, increased self-esteem, inner happiness, and positive relationships.

I think we have to accept the realities of caregiving and one is not providing instant service. We are people, not machines, and doing the best we can. That’s all anyone can do. Let’s give ourselves a round of applause!

Written by Harriet Hodgson
Rochester resident Harriet Hodgson has been a freelance writer for writing for 38 years, is the author of thousands of articles, and 36 books. She is a member of the Association of Health Care Journalists and the Minnesota Coalition for Death Education and Support. She is also a contributing writer for The Caregiver Space website, Open to Hope Foundation website, and The Grief Toolbox website. Harriet has appeared on more than 185 radio talk shows, including CBS Radio, and dozens of television stations, including CNN. A popular speaker, Harriet has given presentations at public health, Alzheimer’s, caregiving, and bereavement conferences. Her work is cited in Who’s Who of American Women, World Who’s Who of Women, Contemporary Authors, and other directories. All of Harriet’s work comes from her life. She is now in her 19th year of caregiving and cares for her disabled husband, John. For more information about this busy author, grandmother, wife, and caregiver please visit www.harriethodgson.com

Related Articles

I’m disabled. Please help me.

I’m disabled. Please help me.

Revolving doors at office towers might as well be called “blind-person milling machines.” Try finding the bottle of vitamins you want on a CVS shelf...

The State of Paid Family Leave

The State of Paid Family Leave

"The United States is one of the wealthiest countries in the world BECAUSE it doesn’t have paid family leave. In other words, our position as one of...

Popular categories

After Caregiving
Finding Meaning
Finding Support

Don't see what you're looking for? Search the library

Share your thoughts


  1. This is exactly what my Daddy does. He doesn’t understand that I have things to do to keep the house in order. So, I can relate!


Share your thoughts and experiences

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Join our communities

Whenever you want to talk, there’s always someone up in one of our Facebook communities.

These private Facebook groups are a space for support and encouragement — or getting it off your chest.

Join our newsletter

Thoughts on care work from Cori, our director, that hit your inbox each Monday morning (more-or-less).

There are no grand solutions, but there are countless little ways to make our lives better.

Share your insights

Caregivers have wisdom and experience to share. Researchers, product developers, and members of the media are eager to understand the nature of care work and make a difference.

We have a group specifically to connect you so we can bring about change.