When Your Spouse Is Diagnosed With A Life Changing Disease

caregiving after diagnosis doctors office photo

As a spouse, we often are put into the position of full time caregiver and advocate for our loved one when they are diagnosed with a life changing disease. While this can feel like an overwhelming time in your life, you need to understand that there are options available to help you make the adjustments needed in order to cope with this challenge.

Life Changing Diagnoses Can Present Life Challenges

When your spouse is diagnosed with a major medical issue (Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, Cancer, COPD, Dementia, Multiple Sclerosis, Diabetes, etc.) it is quite likely that you will be put into the position of being a patient’s advocate & caregiver. In some cases this could be for an extended period of time as a disease progresses; while in other cases it may require a more permanent change in lifestyle in order to allow for the quality of life you desire.

A Guide to Dealing With a Life Changing Disease

There is no specific drawing board as to what to do or how to act when your spouse has been diagnosed with a life changing disease. Some diseases can produce problems of exhaustion or declined abilities; while others may mean facing a hospice situation. Here are some suggestions for how to deal with this new diagnosis:

  • Understand the disease – It is important that you take the time to learn as much as you can about the diagnosis and how it may affect your spouse physically & mentally. Often local chapters and organizations can provide expert insight, financial help and direction based on facts and research.
  • Don’t let the diagnosis/disease define you – While it can become easy to allow a life changing diagnosis overtake your life, it’s very important that you find ways to bring some form of normalcy into your life also. This could mean accepting the diagnosis while still being determined to enjoy life together; perhaps by letting someone else help while you enjoy a date night to a movie or quite time sitting in your favorite spot.
  • Make accommodations & lifestyle adjustments – Certain diseases can put limitations on a person’s physical abilities. Make small modifications in your home, your daily activities, & your life, that can help make life easier for both your spouse and yourself.
  • Get guidance from a geriatric case manager – Many times the eyes of a specialist who works with a number of different cases can enlighten you & provide direction. It can also help to get an unbiased opinion as to what you may need in terms of help with caregiving services, healthcare services that come directly to your home in Baltimore or wherever you may reside, and even financial direction for both geriatric or disease specific services (a local MS Chapter, Alzheimer’s Foundation, etc.).
  • Take time to care for yourself  – While you may feel that you should put aside any worries about yourself and concentrate solely on your spouse nothing could be further from the truth. It is imperative that you be well rested, both mentally and physically, in order to avoid caregiver’s illness (a very real risk when one is forced to take on the caregiving role of a loved one 24/7).

Every diagnosis provides its own challenges; some diseases may not require immediate lifestyle changes, depending upon how aggressive they may be. Other diagnoses may require subtle changes as the disease progresses, while some of the more aggressive diseases will require more immediate reactions and lifestyle changes in order to deal with them.

Take time to fully understand this diagnosis and seek the professional help of others to guide you. Whether it’s through a professional organization that deals specifically with the disease you are battling or hiring a professional caregiving provider who knows the ropes; it is important to remember that you carry on with your life together as partners and enjoy the time you have despite the troubles you may face.


Photo by Exciting Cebu — Rusty Ferguson