Ways I help my husband and caregiver prioritize self-care

Caring for yourself is just as crucial as caring for your loved one

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by Jen Cueva |

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Did you know? According to the National Institutes of Health, millions of Americans each year selflessly provide unpaid care for loved ones with chronic or severe health conditions like pulmonary hypertension (PH). These remarkable individuals dedicate countless hours to assisting others — and we can’t overlook the toll this takes.

Witnessing how caregiving can strain a loved one’s health is heart-wrenching. Take my husband, Manny, for example. He’s been my primary caregiver as I navigate the challenges of PH and other coexisting illnesses. While Manny prioritizes my well-being, he often neglects his own, making me feel guilty. Despite my reminders to care for himself, he often puts my needs before his.

Here comes the guilt

Feeling guilty about taking time off from caregiving is normal. It’s natural to worry about leaving your loved one alone or not doing enough to support them.

But here’s the truth: Caring for yourself is just as crucial as caring for your loved one. As a nurse, I’ve witnessed countless caregivers neglecting their well-being. But remember, you can’t pour from an empty cup. Caring for others can be emotionally draining and exhausting, so it’s vital to practice self-care to avoid caregiver burnout. Besides, prioritizing your own well-being empowers you to provide top-notch care in the long run.

That said, I know that acknowledging the importance of self-care doesn’t make the guilt disappear entirely when you take a much-needed break. But by setting boundaries, seeking support, and replenishing your energy, you can enjoy your time off without compromising your loved one’s care.

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How I help my husband prioritize self-care

To encourage my husband to take care of himself, Manny and I devised a plan. We designate specific “caregiver days” when he can take time to recharge his energy and spirit, whether that’s by hitting the gym, going for a bike ride, or simply hanging out with friends.

Although he often wants me to tag along, I know spending some time apart benefits us both. Recently, he joined a local boxing class that he attends several times a week. I’m incredibly proud of him for trying to improve his health while doing something he enjoys.

It’s also important to me to make Manny feel appreciated. I’m grateful to my husband for even the simplest acts of kindness, like washing a few dishes or preparing healthier meals. I also leave little love notes in his lunch bag, written on my favorite bright-colored Post-it notes, for him to find at work.

In addition, I regularly encourage him to stay on top of his medical care and appointments — though stubbornness can sometimes get in the way. Years ago, I would order his medication refills and fill his pillbox for him. However, he’s reached a point where he’s more aware of his medications and insists on refilling them himself each week.

When challenges wax and wane

Yes, we’ve experienced difficult seasons that have tested the vows we made over 30 years ago. My PH and coexisting conditions may require a great deal of care, but my husband also faces health concerns and needs my love, support, and attention. We navigate challenging days together, reminding each other we’ll get through them. With faith and open communication, we embrace the ups and downs that life throws our way.

I’m deeply grateful for the years I’ve spent with my husband. He’s my most significant source of encouragement through all challenges. His unwavering love and support fuel my educational pursuits, even when it feels impossible. We believe in taking life one step at a time and never giving up on ourselves or each other. We respect the other’s strengths, weaknesses, goals, dreams, and ideas, and uplift each other on our journey to achieve our aspirations.

As a patient, how do you ensure your partner or caregiver practices self-care? Share your tips for gently reminding them to prioritize themselves in the comments below! 

Note: Pulmonary Hypertension News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Pulmonary Hypertension News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to pulmonary hypertension.


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