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Living Separate Lives "Together"
When advanced care means living apart
from your spouse

by Kristine Dwyer, Staff Writer

(Page 3 of 4)

Staying Close

The emotional and intimate ties of marriage can be enjoyed between couples well beyond the day of physical separation. Creative planning and partnering with the long-term care facility can help foster closer relationships. The staff at the long-term care facility can also play an important role in assisting and nurturing the needs of couples by offering quiet, private spaces so couples can share quality time.

At the nursing home, Betty has found a new closeness and bond with her husband that she thought would never be possible. Once filled with fear of all the responsibilities and frustration with the endless decision-making, prior to his nursing home placement, she is now free from these emotions and can focus solely on her relationship with her husband. Although John is now a permanent resident, she continues to see herself as his care partner and plays an important role in his daily life. 

Betty was able to get John a private room and a television and now spends every afternoon with him. Her routine, driven by love and concern, has given her a new sense of purpose with her husband at this stage of their lives. Sometimes they watch old movies together and other days they snuggle together and take naps. The staff has respected their privacy and this intimacy has kept them both strong and able to cope with their circumstances. 

She sums it up with this letter that she wrote to John……….

“Dear John:
We were always close, but this episode in our lives has made us closer. We’re both more aware of what loving means. You aren’t there to die; but to LIVE. So lets keep making memories and caring. Know that I will be there with you. I don’t have to worry and be anxious and afraid now. We have quality time here at the nursing home. If we were at home, we wouldn’t be taking naps together, sharing a cup of coffee, watching movies. This is ‘home’ now, for both of us. All we have to do is enjoy each other. If we were at home, I’d be your caregiver and you would resent it. I’d resent you for resenting it and we would end our love story in a way it shouldn’t end. We’ve been spared that unthinkable end. We can go to our graves as much in love as we were 58 years ago. It’s a gift! 
Love, Betty”
Taking Care of Self

Caring for one’s self and maintaining a positive quality of life after a spouse moves to a care facility is a crucial part of survival. Caregivers have often delayed their own doctor visits and medical care procedures because they have focused most of their time and energy on providing care to their spouse. Now is the time to make appointments and give priority to health care needs. Besides, the health and well- being of the caregiver will directly reflect on the relationship with their loved one. 
Arnie had his first physical in years and is now on a medication regime that has lowered his high blood pressure. In addition, after years of waking up hourly to check on his wife’s safety, he can now sleep through the night and has a renewed sense of energy. 

Nancy found that her anxiety has significantly decreased knowing Jim is in a safe place. Massage therapy twice a month has also helped relieve her stress-induced back tension. 

Betty is now seeing her doctor regularly and is not only able to get a full night’s rest, but she is also returning to that person she was before John became sick. She didn’t realize how depressed she had become and how much the “essence” of herself had been lost over time. She has turned to journal writing as an outlet for self-discovery and also shares her wisdom and experience with other caregivers in a support group. 


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