Dealing With a Sick Spouse

I’ve been thinking about  that lovely part of our marriage vows that states “in sickness and in health.” That one part of the vows to me seems to be the hardest one of them all to be equipped at dealing with.

I was sicker than sick on Monday. I haven’t been that sick in ages. I literally wanted to dig a hole and bury myself in it and DIE. Yep, I said die. That’s just how miserable I was.

There are spouses though that don’t recover in a short period of time. What then??  All the focus gets placed on the sickly. Granted, the sickly need a lot of attention. However, what about the spouses taking care of the sickly?

I guess this is weighing on my mind because I was so sick it’s not even funny. My kids had to take care of my literally! My oldest cooked dinner for all of us, and he did a remarkable job. My husband had to work and didn’t get home until late. It got me thinking about the fact that although I was sick, he still had to work to pay the bills. When he did get home, he wasn’t up to doing anything to help around the house. He still had to unwind from his long day at work. It reminded me of how much my mom sacrificed for my step-father.

My Mom had to take care of my step-father, who ended up with heart congestive failure, and she was a nurse by day and had to come home and be a nurse again. Her nursing duty never ended for her. She got drained after so long. I can very strongly remember her crying and saying that she knew he needed her to care for him, but what about someone taking care of her. She refused to let me to be her nurse maid when she was dying of cancer. (I’d NEVER make a good nurse in a million years and she knew that, but she also knew that I don’t handle emotional stress well. I can handle a lot of challenges at once, but if it pulls at my heart strings in any way I crash and burn.) 

He was literally dying in the hospital one day (or at least the doctors made it sound like he was), and she was out riding her horse and had me come along with her. I got mad as fire and left her on the trail and went to the hospital myself to be with him. I was a teenager at the time. I stayed angry at her for years over that incident! Horses were my mom’s life, everything she did or didn’t do revolved around them! I felt like at that point in time she was choosing a darn horse over the man she vowed to be beside until the day he died.

I guess I learned while being in bed on Monday while my husband was at work that sometimes in order for someone to take care of their sick spouses, they have to continue on with their life. In my husband’s case, he had to work to pay the bills, there’s no way around that! My Mom NEEDED to get in an hour ride just to be able to cope with being beside her husband. She also knew that there was NOTHING she could have done in the hospital beside him at that given point in time, but wait! She had been his nurse maid while he was at home. That period of time was literally her first escape she had from dealing with his sickness since he got diagnosed.

I’m writing this for spouses who are dealing with a sick spouse. Please for your sake as well as your spouse’s sake please make sure you take time out to take care of yourself too!! You will be better equipped to help your spouse. Plus I’m confident that your spouse who loves you dearly would not want to see you suffer as the result of them being sick beyond their control. I know that is way easier said than done! I’ve seen it first hand as being the sick spouse who has been trapped, whiny, and extremely needy!

I’ve lived on one end of the spectrum already. I hope and pray I don’t have to live on the other end because I honestly don’t feel I could survive it. However, I know God will give me the strength to get through it. I am always impressed by spouses who have been through the sickness and health with their spouses!

Have you been in these shoes already? Do you have other words of wisdom to add? 




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I'm Crystal. I'm married to Dale, and mother to Johnny.Some might say that my life is perfect because I get to do all the cliché wife things like cooking, cleaning, and decorating - but there's more! I also have many hobbies including needlework (crochet), sewing, and reading. My son's education is important, so we homeschool him together.

35 comments on “Dealing With a Sick Spouse”

  1. I broke my leg and ankle last year and my husband was absolutely amazing. He helped me bathe, took care of the kids, did all of the cooking, cleaning, attending birthday parties, etc. AND worked his full time job. It was mind blowing and while I hope the roles are never reversed, I’m totally ready to step up for him if that day comes.

    • I have had some good care takers in my life, and it’s made a huge difference for sure! Glad you have a great care taker.

  2. My hubby is not an easy patient and he says I am not either. I just want to be left alone when sick. He wants lots of attention. Now, which one sounds easier? 🙂

  3. My husband is great at taking care of me and/or our son. He is very patient. But I will say, when he is sick… he is a big baby. And I don’t think I’m as patient. 🙂

  4. I haven’t taken care of a sick spouse, but I watched both sets of grandparents deal with this. I know that we need to prepare ourselves for it, but it’s not FUN!

  5. I can think of only 2 occasions (thankfully) where my husband was so sick I had to take care of him. When it was really ill after my daughter was born, he was awesome. I couldn’t have asked for a better carer.

  6. Thankfully we’ve been blessed with good health till date but I agree 100% based on watching my grandparents that the caregiver NEEDS to take care of himself/herself too else things will get very very rough after a time.

    • I hope and pray I never have to be a caregiver. I fear that happening more than I can express because I do not make a good nurse AT ALL! I love my husband with all of my heart, but…. I’m glad that you agree with me too. 🙂

  7. I am always mean to my husband when he is sick. If I am not, he will lay around and whine and never get better. When we started dating he had an upper respiratory thing for like a month. Now he gets up and gets better.

    • In some cases, that has to be what happens because some people do like to “milk a sickness” for as long as possible! You are a good wife for making sure he got up and moved like he should have. 🙂

  8. When my husband gets sick, he has sick time and stays home and sleeps for several hours at a time. When I get sick, I don’t have sick time. So I still need to do my paying work at home and most of my other responsibilities. I think it is not unreasonable to ask your spouse to take a whole or a half a day off to take over those responsibilities when you are severely sick.

    • Karen,

      I am glad you stated that you didn’t think it was unreasonable to want my husband home with me on Monday because I literally felt like I was dying that’s how sick I was. However, I also knew there was no one to take his place had he called off. Thanks for your input. 🙂

  9. Having a sick spouse can throw the whole house into a tailspin. It’s important though if you are the caregiver to take some time for you too.

    • It definitely does put the whole house into a tailspin. Glad you agree that the caretaker needs to take time out for themselves.

  10. It’s so hard to take care of a sick anyone. (Although I think it’s harder to take care of a sick husband… they always seem extra miserable.) I can understand you being mad at your Mom, but I’m glad she took that time away for her.

    • I definitely agree that men seem to be harder to take care of. Of course, I think that may be because women for the most part hide their sickness and still tend to the family regardless how they feel. I know I do until I can’t go anymore.

  11. Im sorry to hear that you have been sick!
    Im a widow, but I remember taking care of him many years ago when he was not feeling well..
    it is tough being a Caretaker.

  12. Being sick is no fun. I have had 13 surgeries and I have always had the mindset that no one knows what it is like to be sick like this. It can be so frustrating to be taken care of that you forget how the other feels. A few years ago my husband found out he was allergic to corn and peas. I felt really bad for him, but I didn’t realize how sick he actually was until I got a stomach bug and he told me how he felt. It made me realize that I needed to go easier on him and not be frustrated with him for ingesting stuff he shouldn’t have because he already feels miserable.

  13. Hi Crystal,n I am new to your blog and visiting you back from my Weekends Are Fun, or we hope there will be some in it somewhere. Thanks for stopping by.

    Now about taking care of a sick spouse, I have been a caretaker of my husband for the last 13 years of our marriage of 17, he was diagnosed with diabetes and because it went diagnosed it had damage to his eyes and has not been able to drive since. And since then, 2 strokes, so I can relate to what your mom went through and if I get sick or theres a problem that I am experiencing, I feel guilty and usually someone else has to help because he does not do sick. Yes he cares that Im ok, but he has his own problems so its kind hard. Im looking at surgery next year and trying to figure out how I will do without the use of my right arm while it heals. So being sick anytime is hard on families, but I know its part of life. Sorry to go on, just hit a cord with me as I can relate.

    Anyway, have a great weekend and thanks again for stopping by.

    Oh My Heartsie Girl

    • Karren,

      I’m glad you went on and on. It let me know your side of the story. I hope and pray that you’re able to get the help you need while you heal. I hope I hit the right cord for you to know that your worth your own time too.
      Prayers will definitely be lifted up for you and yours!

  14. Great post! I get sick very rarely, but did get a horrible stomach bug last week… so, yes, there I was in bed being waited on by our amazing kiddos. They practically fought over who got to bring me ginger ale, and when I was feeling up to advancing my diet, they made me broth, soup and then dry toast with eggs. I was very blessed. (My husband almost called off an important trip overnight for a church conference, but I pushed him to go because worrying over me was unnecessary. The kids had it all covered. He was shocked, though, he’d never seen me THAT sick.)

    As a nurse, one of the things I do the most is remind the family that they MUST take care of themselves if they are going to be able to care for the ill family member. I work in neonatal care and most of our moms can’t bear to drag themselves away from their critically ill newborn for even a second…. but they have to. They need to get some sleep. They need to eat. They need to take a break. Which means I have to do whatever it takes to get them to trust me with their child’s well being. I make sure the parents are given all of the information they need. I have another NICU nurse watch the baby so that I can give them an update if something changes with their baby’s plan of care. I hug them. I cry with them. I reassure them. I level with them. I never blow smoke but I also never lose hope. Whatever they need… providing that is just as much a part of caring for their child as the actual medical care of the baby.

    • Elisabeth,

      You have a very hard job indeed. I’m certain God uses you in far more ways than even you realize. I can’t imagine being a parent in that position. Zeva took a while to give us her first holler and was taking her sweet time breathing, but thank God she was okay. My heart breaks for parents who have to deal with their babies in NICU. Of course, my heart breaks for anyone who has to deal with a sick family member period.

      Thank you stopping by and commenting.

  15. One of my brothers is dying, and it’s very difficult for my sister in law to take care of him. Aside from what he’s dying from, he also has altzheimers so he gets confused and asks the same question over and over again. I know it’s not easy for her. My other brother has fought cancer three different times and is currently in remission. So both my sister in laws have to (or have had to) care for a sick spouse.

    My hubby is healthy, but last January he got a really bad case of the flu. He not only had to miss work, he was so sick (103 fever) that he had to find someone to preach for him that weekend.

    I get a flu shot every year, and last year was the first time that I got the flu in years. It was a very mild case though (probably due to the flu shot). I still didn’t feel well and it still affected my asthma a bit, but I wasn’t as sick as my hubby and didn’t have that fever so I was able to take care of him.

    What a great encouragement you gave! My mom lived with us for six years after my dad died. And every year I asked that one of my siblings take care of her for a month because I knew that I needed some time to just relax, you know? And my family did too because they were great with her.

    Sometimes I practically had to *guilt* someone in my family into it, lol! They love my mom but I guess the thought of caring for her just seemed too much. But she is now in a nursing home as I can no longer give her the care that she needs (she needs someone with her 24/7, day and night and I can’t do that).

    I think when caring for a critically ill person, or chronically ill or whatever, that you need lots and lots of support. And, as you said, you need to take care of you too. My hubby was very good about setting boundaries for me, if necessary, and saying “no” if certain family members tried to place unrealistic expectations on me. Aren’t hubby’s great? 😉

    Thanks for linking up to Making Your Home Sing Monday!

    • That’s a lot of sickness in your family. It’s not easy on the caretaker, and it’s not easy on the extended family either. It’s good that you stand your ground and have them help you get your relief. It’s vital to being able to do it.

  16. Great words of wisdom. We have been blessed with good health. Last year, my hubby had an infection in his leg and couldn’t walk, and all the kids got the flu. It was the longest week of my life, and it made me so thankful for our good health.

  17. When I had my hysterectomy 2 years ago my husband and youngest son were amazing caretakers! They took care or me and the house. It was a blessing to know that when I needed them most, they were there for me.

    • That is so great to hear! My husband and kids pitched in a lot when I became bedridden during my pregnancy with Zeva. I have to give them credit they do a great job of helping out even now.

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