According to a new study from the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada, seniors work hard to keep their marriages alive and well, even after one spouse falls ill and goes into a long-term care facility.
Community-dwelling spouses were greatly drawn in the lives of their partners who are inside the institution, and that a lot of the couples remained active together may it be inside or outside the nursing home Researcher Robin Stadnyk was surprised to discover about this.
Stadnyk is a post-doctoral researcher in the University of Alberta’s Department of Human Ecology. She reviewed data from a qualitative study of 52 community-dwelling spouses in three Canadian provinces: Alberta, Manitoba and Nova Scotia, for her PhD research. According to her research, the participants were heavily involved in their spouses’ lives, not only through caretaking duties like doing laundry and helping with personal hygiene, but also through nurturing activities that brought them closer together.
“Most participants described close relationships with their spouses before the placement in a long-term care home. They simply found ways they could continue that closeness within the institutional walls,” Stadnyk noted. Marriage-sustaining activities included watching TV together, studying travel brochures and reviewing diaries to relive old memories, even taking painting lessons together.
For regular weekly and even daily visits, some spouses do is they bring their partners home. A loving story of an 82-year-old man in the study took weight-training just so he could lift his wife in and out of the car for the weekly trip home.
“The findings defy the common assumption that the partnership of marriage effectively ends when one spouse enters a care facility,” Stadnyk said.
Changing roles as give-and take-partners to compassionate caretakers, husbands and wives of partners with dementia carry on with nurturing their marriages. One of the things they do is they are making sure treats were available for their spouses and another was they make to it to attend special events. “Many related these activities to their wedding vows, ‘In sickness and in health, for better or for worse’,” Stadnyk said.
Other halves with partners who are institutionalized moreover created methods to deal with their new loneliness. This is described by one participant as ‘limbo’. It is finding ‘safe’ activities such as family or church outings and limiting their interactions to same-sex social groups.
Stadnyk suggests that rehabilitation workers help couples continue to find ways to connect when one spouse is in a nursing home. Quiet, private spaces are needed so couples can share quality time. Improvements to policies to respect the private lives of residents are also needed, Stadnyk said. Private accommodations, rather than shared rooms, are often desired by couples and are increasingly being offered in newer facilities. But even simple changes such as knocking on a resident’s door before entering are appreciated by spouses, Stadnyk said. A secure place for personal items like diaries would also allow couples to keep special possessions private. “One nursing home even allowed a couple to keep a refrigerator in the resident’s room, which made it easy for the couple to share snacks.”
It is important that practitioners help couples find things to do together. He/she should also encourage the well spouses to discover activities on their own to sustain their identities.