Manage Spousal Caregiving: Dynamics & Support

Feb 9, 2024

Caregiving can take on many roles, from siblings caring for aging parents or grandparents to spouses caring for one another through aging, disease, or other conditions.

We’ve talked a lot about caring for aging parents and loved ones and less about the relationship dynamics and caregiving complications associated with caring for a spouse through these life-changing role shifts. However, with 12% of caregivers providing care to a spouse or partner, there is a substantial group of caregivers needing support through navigating these life changes. 

Today, we’re going to talk about managing caregiving dynamics for close personal relationships, talk about some of the complexities associated with caregiving duties, as well as managing relationship dynamics, and when to seek support. 


Moving from a marriage relationship to a caregiving and marriage relationship can be incredibly stressful and hard to navigate as physical and mental changes take place in one or both partners. 

There can be emotional impacts such as emotional distance caused by caretaking tasks creating a relationship dynamic shift, frustration or depression at the physical or emotional changes happening in the care-receiving partner, or even emotional distress caused by a lack of emotional or physical intimacy due to the care receiver’s changing condition. Additionally, some spouses may feel resentment or frustration due to the unexpected life changes that result from their spouse’s changing condition or feel a sense of loss related to retirement plans, the loss of relationship norms, or even (in cases of Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s) the perceived loss of who their spouse was. 

It’s important to know that feeling stress or frustration (or even isolation!) during the transition from spouses to care partners is totally normal and that you don’t need to feel guilty if you experience any of those feelings or emotions.  Find someone you trust that you can talk to and make sure you take care of yourself during this time as well. 

These complexities and feelings can be compounded by the increased responsibilities associated with caregiving, which we’ll unpack more here below. 

The Caregiving Emotional Load

Everyone’s caregiving experience is going to be different, if only due to the unique nature of every care receiver’s needs, abilities, and wishes. Spouse caregivers often experience more stress than other caregivers because they automatically become 24/7 caregivers as they live with their care receiver. This immediate transition from spouse to caregiver can result in caregiver burnout and stress, which we’ve talked about here, and lead to isolation and even depression. 

Some additional ways to help reduce the negative emotional impacts are to try and focus on relationship strategies to help work through these feelings together as a team. 

Find activities that you can still do together that bring you joy, and try to still find ways to “date” one another even through the challenges of caregiving. Take time to talk to one another as partners rather than as a caregiver and care receivers, and focus on what you both enjoy together as a couple.  

When to Seek Support 

It can be hard (especially for spouses) to seek support as they may feel like it is their duty to manage their spouse’s needs entirely solo, and although a noble venture, it may put undue stress on the spouse and the relationship. It can be even harder to know when to seek outside support for you and your partner. 

If caregiving starts impacting your own ability to care for yourself, you’re losing sleep, or skipping your own doctor’s appointments, it might be worth looking into either familial support or outside caregiving agencies that can lend you a hand. Finally, spend some time practicing self-care as you’re able, and don’t be afraid to ask for help if caregiving is negatively impacting you (or your relationship). Caregiving is no joke, and caregiving for romantic partners or spouses can complicate things even more. You can use the Avanlee App to help keep your family updated with your caregiving journey, or even ask for help or schedule groceries or OTC items. We’re here to help however we can, and don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any questions.