Love and intimacy are rarely addressed topics in the general conversation about caregivers. However uncomfortable it might be to talk about, these topics are a part of the experience. Spousal caregivers will have to adjust to changes in intimacy and sex. But that adjustment period can be confusing– both the care recipient and the caregiver can be left feeling frustrated, misunderstood and vulnerable. There are a few key resources that will help you and your loved one navigate love and intimacy in the caregiving relationship.
We’ve provided you with some of our favorites tips and insights.
“Human touch is key to being intimate. Although you may feel that you spend a lot of your time touching your partner by bathing or moving him or her, set aside time for different kinds of touch. Simply lying together in bed holding hands, or stroking each other’s faces can lead to a better connection. And, making love doesn’t require sexual intercourse. “
On caregivers: “They are exhausted, feel out of shape, and have mentally put sex on the back burner indefinitely. It’s difficult to feel sexy when you’re depleted. But, intimacy means much more than just sex and it lives well beyond the bedroom.”
“Sexual intimacy can suffer in many caregiving situations. Fatigue from caring for a parent can affect the relationship between spouses. The presence of a new person in the home changes the chemistry. Caregivers and care recipients alike need the emotional support that comes from hugging, touching, holding and kissing. Experts agree this is one of the most difficult aspects of caregiving.”
“It’s not the sort of thing you just blurt out,” notes Craig Roca, whose wife suffers from fibromyalgia, an illness that causes a great deal of pain. “Here she is living with constant pain, and I’m complaining about my sexual frustration. It just doesn’t seem right, even though the problem is very real.”
“When someone is chronically or terminally ill, and is being provided physical care, they can find it very difficult to ask to have their emotional needs met also. Caregivers are often overwhelmed and may have difficulties verbalizing their own emotional and physical needs. There may be feelings of guilt and shame attached to having any physical or emotional needs. “
“It can be difficult to contemplate having sex with someone you now spoon feed, or clean up after a visit to the bathroom, especially if his or her appearance has radically changed.”
In a couple of weeks, our new site will be launching. As one of our many features, there will be a Love and Intimacy in Caregiving resource center and discussion board to help you cope with and handle this sensitive issue.