Is It Time For My Spouse to Move to a Senior Living Community?

It can be painful to realize that your spouse’s physical and emotional health may require more care than you can provide. The thought of living apart is difficult, and many people feel torn about what’s best for both of them.

As you consider the variety of options, it’s important to be honest and realistic with yourself, and don’t be afraid to ask for additional perspective from loved ones. Above all, the health and wellbeing of both you and your spouse is what’s most important, and overextending yourself to care for your spouse puts both of you at risk.

You may be unsure if it’s best for one or both of you to move now or wait until later. There are lots of things you might struggle with such as, “What if we get through the winter season and just see how things are come spring? What if s/he has a fall and it’s the one time I’m unable to help? Would it be selfish of me to bring up the possibility of him/her moving?”

During the COVID-19 pandemic in particular, with more time spent together and perhaps more caregiving responsibility placed on one spouse, more needs may come to light than you’d previously acknowledged.

“When it comes to health, safety, and overall well-being, you must follow your head while tending to your heart.”

For some couples, it’s ideal to live apart so each person receives the level of care they need, removing the lopsided burden of caregiving. One person may maintain the family home, but come for a daily visit where the other lives. In this scenario, without that strain and responsibility of care needs, many couples can once again focus on enjoying each other’s company; rekindling their love.

For other couples, a move to a senior living community together meets the needs of both partners. Whether they share an apartment or duplex that allows for personalized care (or the lack thereof) based on the individual, or they move to the same community but live in different areas, a move can be a blessing for all.

When it comes to deciding if and when a move is best, there are several questions to consider.

Is Caring for Your Spouse Risky to Your Own Health?
Caring for a spouse can weigh on a person physically and emotionally. When assuming the role of caregiver, it’s easy to put their medical needs ahead of yours, but it should not be at the expense of your own health and wellbeing. Sometimes, the stress of caring for your spouse can cause you to overlook your own simple day-to-day necessities.

Signs that caring for your spouse may be weighing on your health include:  

  • Missing or putting off your own doctor appointments
  • Ignoring your own health issues or symptoms
  • Unhealthy diet or lack of eating
  • Overusing tobacco or alcohol
  • Not exercising because of time commitments
  • Losing sleep
  • Giving up social activities
  • Feeling sad, down, depressed, or helpless
  • Feeling resentful toward your spouse
  • A lack of interest in activities that used to be enjoyable for you and your spouse

Acknowledging that you can’t provide all the care your spouse may need doesn’t make you a failure. As health care offerings advance, people are living longer, and no two people age the same.

Caring For Your Spouse Versus Being Their Caregiver
Providing care for your spouse looks different for different couples. It can be intermittent, or it can become demanding, potentially adversely affecting your own health.

If you take a step back and realize your schedule is consumed by your spouse’s care needs, you may have transitioned between caring for your spouse and acting as their caregiver. While it’s certainly not an intentional change in roles, one can feel forced into something they never signed up for, and this can change the dynamic of the relationship. An unknown resentment may develop, and the caregiver is at higher risk for experiencing depression or other medical conditions from aging.

It’s important to be in tune to the role that caring or caregiving is playing in your life, and be ready to talk about it.

How to Talk to Your Spouse About Moving to a Senior Community
Having a conversation with your spouse about moving to a senior living community can be very difficult given the emotions it may elicit. Even if the initial conversation doesn’t go well, keep talking. It is important to make sure both partners will receive the level of care that they need.

Discuss with your spouse the emotions you’re feeling and how they may be affecting your relationship and health.

Your spouse may not understand the physical and emotional toll it’s taking on you until you say so.

Discuss the option of moving together versus you staying in the home. Each couple has unique needs, and it is important to emphasize that a move may be the safest option for everyone.

Tip: This blog article features helpful, applicable tips for having this conversation with parents, and many of the same concepts can apply when discussing with a spouse.

Picking a Community Together
Choosing the right senior community and level of care depends on a variety of factors, including both of your care needs, preferences, and financial situation. There are several different types of residential care that may be appropriate, including:

couple living together in independent senior living

Each type provides different levels of care, and you may find there’s something for both of you. When choosing a facility, consider proximity to your home if one of you chooses to stay there. Additionally, inquire about the community’s rules and regulations for visitors if you choose to live separately. This may be of particular importance during the pandemic, and is also a key factor to understand during typical times.

Speak with friends and family about your communities of interest, make some phone calls, ask questions, go for tours, and join waiting lists to start your journey to senior living.

Support For You and Your Spouse
Making the decision to move to a senior community can bring about a variety of emotions, regardless of if you decide to move together or if only your spouse makes the move.

Feelings during the decision process, the discussions, and the transition will vary, and they may include:

  • Guilt
  • Regret
  • Sadness
  • Depression
  • Feeling inadequate
  • Resentment

Talk with your spouse about how you feel and work through it together. A conversation with a trusted loved one or mental health professional may also benefit both of you. Remind each other that this transition will benefit you both and help keep you healthy and safe.

Your Spouse’s Move to Senior Living
After you and your spouse have selected a senior community to meet your needs, it is important to make the transition as smooth as possible.

Three Pillars aerial photo of campus

A great way to start is by transforming it into a place that feels like home. Hang pictures and add personal décor to bring warmth and familiarity. If your spouse is used to a night stand next to the bed, for example, ensure a similar set up in the new space. Facilitate introductions to peers and new neighbors, get to know the staff, and engage in available activities to build familiarity off the bat. A smooth transition will create peace of mind for both of you.

Every situation is different, but if you’ve ever felt a rising concern that your spouse’s care requirements are getting to be too much, it may be time to begin this conversation.

Many happy years of love and good health await you both, so don’t be afraid to arrange for the care needed to get you there.