Every dad is different, but one thing almost every father has in common is the negative feeling that arises when they think of their partner being sick or in pain. If your partner suffers from a chronic illness, you’ve had more than your fair share of this feeling.
While you may not be able to cure your partner’s illness, there are lots of things you can do as a father and husband to step up, provide support, and help them feel better.
Listed below are six ways dads can support a chronically ill spouse.
One of the best things you can do for your partner is to make sure you’re present when they need you. Be around to pick up your children from school or help them with their homework so your partner can rest.
Of course, there are times when you can’t be present, especially if you are the primary earner in your family. But, do whatever you can to make an effort to be around as much as possible. Maybe you’ll designate specific days of the week where you work from home or leave the office by a specific time.
If your partner wants to talk about their illness or symptoms, actively listen. Ask questions and let them know that you care and want to understand what they’re going through.
It can be hard to have these conversations, and you might have to address issues that you’d rather not think about. Push through the discomfort and be there to hear what your spouse has to say.
Even if you don’t know how to respond, don’t try to shut down the conversation -- be open and let them know what you’re feeling.
Accompany Them to Appointments
If you can, try to accompany your partner to their doctor’s appointments. Not only does this provide them with support (and take away some of the stress associated with traveling, especially if your partner can’t or doesn’t like to drive), but it gives you an opportunity to learn more about their situation and ask questions for yourself.
On days when you can’t make it to appointments, offer to do something else to help lighten your partner’s load. Maybe this will be a day when you pick the kids up from school or take them out for a couple hours so your spouse can rest.
Embrace Their Diet or Lifestyle Changes (and Help Get Your Kids on Board)
Often, a chronic illness diagnosis comes with recommendations for diet and lifestyle changes. If this is the case for your spouse, be supportive and join them in these changes. Help them prepare meals and do research to learn about new recipes or activities that align with the diet and lifestyle changes the doctor prescribed.
Work hard to get your kids on board, too. If they see you refusing to eat the same meals as your partner or acting like their lifestyle changes are a burden, they’re going to be more inclined to complain and resistant the adjustments as well. This definitely doesn’t make life easier for your spouse.
Invest in Lifestyle Aids
There are a number of tools that can help make your partner’s life easier and help them maintain their independence as they learn to manage their illness effectively, including the following:
· Canes, walkers, or crutches to help them move around more easily
· Lift chairs for those recovering from an injury -- they can also be great for people who deal with chronic pain
· Reach extenders for getting objects from high shelves
· Adaptive kitchen tools (can openers, silverware, cooking supplies, etc.) that are made for people who struggle with arthritis or joint pain
Take Time for Yourself
Finally, make sure you’re taking time for yourself, too. It’s important to be present, but it’s also important to have your own interests and hobbies. Go play a round of golf with your friends or take an hour in the evening to go to the gym.
If you’re worried about spending time away from your spouse, talk to them about your needs and make arrangements so you can participate in these activities without any worry or guilt attached.
Do you have experience with a spouse who has a chronic illness? What tips would you share for supporting them?