If your spouse has suffered a health setback that has led them to post-hospital rehab, you may be wondering what you can do to boost their spirits. Here are three ideas for providing emotional support for your spouse during their rehabilitation and recovery journey.
How to Provide Support For Your Spouse or Loved One
1. Be a Willing and Respectful Listener
As psychotherapist Dr. Barton Goldsmith points out, one of the best ways to provide emotional support for your spouse during a difficult time is to make yourself available when they want to talk, while at the same time not forcing them to talk if they don’t want to.
“Be respectful of your partner’s feelings. If the one you love is dealing with a loss or a disappointment let him or her know that you are available to talk,” Dr. Goldsmith advises. “Also, letting your partner have the space he or she needs to process feelings is a way of showing that you care.”
If your spouse does wish to have a conversation with you about their emotions, try to be as open-minded and empathetic as possible. Give them time to voice their feelings without jumping in to offer your own take—you know your spouse well and may have an idea of how they’re feeling, but a health scare may bring new emotions that they need to process on their own.
“Listen deeply and take in what your partner is saying. Knowing that you are being heard is very nurturing,” Dr. Goldsmith says. “It is also the best way to heal old wounds and prevent misunderstandings. Paraphrasing what your partner has said is a great way to let him or her know you are tuned in.”
2. Identify Sources of Anxiety
When someone has a health scare or receives a new diagnosis, it can bring a wave of anxiety and fear. Clinical psychologist Rosalind Kalb tells WebMD that “the best way to deal with anxiety is to identify the root of the worry and find strategies and resources to address it.”
WebMD offers up these strategies for dealing with negative emotions that can come with a new diagnosis:
- Research your spouse’s condition to combat the fear of the unknown. Don’t be afraid to ask your spouse’s doctor or rehab team questions.
- Speak with a therapist or a trained professional, either together or separately.
- Monitor your spouse for depression.
- Acknowledge changes in your relationship.
3. Help Your Spouse Stay Social
If your spouse is staying in an inpatient rehabilitation center, they may feel disconnected from their friends and family members—especially if they’ve spent time in the hospital before rehab.
One way to provide emotional support is by helping them connect with their larger support network. You don’t have to do it all by yourself!
Help them call up their friends or use a smartphone or table to set up video calls. Encourage friends and family to visit, as they may be waiting for an invitation to make sure that they aren’t intruding.
Not only will this help lighten your load as a caregiver, but it will help boost your loved one’s overall health. Studies show that there’s a strong correlation between social interaction and health and well-being among older adults.
With this in mind, you can also try encouraging them to participate in social activities at the rehab center they’re staying at. Most post-hospital rehab centers offer a wide variety of social activities to help foster a sense of community among residents and provide entertaining, uplifting gatherings.
Maintaining Your Own Health as a Caregiver
Of course, one of the best things you can do in your role as caregiver for your spouse is to take care of yourself. Taking care of a loved one can be an enormous strain, so be sure to make time for yourself and prioritize your own health.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, AARP offers tips for avoiding caregiver burnout, including:
- Join a support group.
- Nurture the positive relationships in your life.
- Give yourself a break.
- Don’t forget to take care of your own health.
Remember, you aren’t in this alone. Don’t hesitate to reach out to your own support system for help. You can also count on the experts at The MacIntosh Company to help you with all of your rehab questions and concerns—we’re here to help guide you through the process.