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Keeping Love Alive

If you’re an unmarried caregiver for a parent with dementia, you may have noticed a slight downturn in your love life. On average, caregivers devote 20 hours a week to caring for a loved one. So, between that, a job, and kids, the last thing many people want to think about is dating. But companionship, intimacy and sexuality are core human needs that enhance psychological and physical well-being and can even reduce the stress of caregiving. So here are a few ways you can keep the flames of passion (or at least a few smoldering embers) burning bright.

Talk to your family

Tell your parent you need to start taking better care of yourself, which includes some time for dating. Assure your parent that you will still see them and that their needs will still be met. Enlist siblings, aunts and uncles, or other family members and friends to assist with caregiving.

Set boundaries

Establish reasonable limits as to how much time you will dedicate to caring for your parent. Without them, the expectation may be that you will always be available. When you visit, tell them ahead of time how long you will be there and stick by your decision. Limit the number of phone calls you will answer and give them specific times of the day they are allowed to call. Try to call them at regular intervals, so they know when to expect you. Knowing when you’re going to call should reduce the amount of calls you receive.

Go prepared

Before you visit, call your parent to find out if there is anything they need — groceries, a prescription, or reading material. This allows you to pick it up on the way, rather than being asked for these items upon your arrival.

Find solutions to your parent’s emotional needs

Loneliness is a major driver in a parent calling and asking for visits. If your parent lives in a senior living community, talk with the staff about your parent’s interests and how they could be engaged. Discuss how to get your parent more involved in activities that could lead to friendships. If your parent lives alone, look at connecting your parent with local senior centers, meal programs and senior outings.

Be honest if a new relationship begins

If a new relationship looks promising, talk honestly about your parent and how much time you need to devote to caregiving. This provides a context for the relationship and explains why you may not always be available.

Seek help if you need it

Caregiving can be physically and emotionally stressful. Feelings of sadness, guilt and anger are common, which can lead to depression. If you feel yourself becoming depressed, seek help. This can come from a licensed therapist, pastor, close friend or support group. You can find support groups in your area by visiting alz.org, eldercare.gov, caring.com and caregiver.org.

All Caregiver Resource Center staff conversations are confidential.

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