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Posted October 19, 2007

Ask An Expert

Caregiver Care: Saving Your Own Sanity

Q. My husband is in nursing home with a stroke, heart failure, and dementia. I kept him at home for five years. Now, I find that trying to get them to take care of him is destroying me. How can I save my own sanity?

Lois S., San Angelo, Texas.

A. Caregivers often spouses need to give loving care, attention and support to themselves first so they are able to have the necessary resources for their partner, who is a patient at a supervised nursing facility.

A wife’s (and husband’s) commitment to the well-being of her husband is one of the tenets of marriage. When a spouse needs to be placed into a nursing home, this painful separation has a substantial impact on the partner who lives at home. Care-providing spouses are in the difficult situation of trying to balance maintaining their own sense of sanity, well-being, energy, pleasurable moments with advocating and monitoring the care of their husband.

Caregiving is a process which is at the same time -- loving, difficult, often fatiguing, challenging and ongoing, with either a positive outcome or the loss of a partner. Our memories of better times help us when we are tired or irritable. Love calls upon us to be there for our mates in hard physical times. Remember this your own quality of health is as important as that of your husband.

Asking for emotional refuge is a sign of strength. You are entitled to feel good and not guilty. Caregivers need time to pause, to reflect, to recharge their batteries and take stock of the special moments within each day. I support you in your journey of caregiving!

This answer is provided by Laurence C. Segall, MS, LCSW, GCM, president of Segall & Associates in Trumbull, Connecticut, and a licensed geriatric care manager and marriage and family therapist. He can be reached at and 203-722-7763.

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