How to Deal With a Sick Spouse

Updated 04/16/19
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When a catastrophic illness or accident strikes a sick spouse or a family, it is truly heartwarming to see how couples support one another with patience, love, devotion, and dedication. They are shining examples of living out our vow of "in sickness and in health."

Yet, let a flu bug knock her for a loop or a bad cold bring him to his knees, and all that love and patience for a sick spouse seems to fly out the window! Why?

We talked with other couples dealing with the minor illness of a spouse and we've decided that few of us are adequately prepared to deal with a sick but not-so-sick spouse.

Tips for Dealing With Your Sick Spouse

  • Create a "survival kit" with lots of their favorite movies, magazines, and an e-reader or a couple of books. Include the remote control for the TV or DVR and a supply of water or juice. Don't forget a "feel better" note.
  • If you have to "abandon" your partner, make sure the kitchen is stocked. Consider leaving some canned or packaged soup with the pan, bowl, and spoon close by. Sick spouses can never find anything even if it is where it always is. Be sure a landline or cell telephone is within reach.
  • When you are home and available, resist the temptation to give your sick spouse a bell. The sound of their voice yelling for you is far more pleasant in the long run than the continual tinkling of that darn bell. Besides, if they have a sore throat, they won't call for you as much.
  • Pampering them with a meal in bed? Present it on a tray with a placemat and a flower. Even a fake flower will do.
  • Don't forget to plump a pillow now and then.
  • A cool washcloth laid across their forehead can make you appear like a guardian angel.
  • Tease a bit by drawing an open-mouthed monster on a grocery bag. Cut out the hole in the mouth and request that soiled tissues be tossed in the mouth of the bag.
  • If your partner asks you to leave them alone, do it.  But secretly check in once and a while.

Finding the Right Balance

The key to dealing with a sick spouse is tolerance. We don't want to be ignored, nor do we want to be smothered with motherly care. We learned by trial and error the importance of giving your spouse space, and to not overdo the pampering bit, but to show genuine concern.

One way to show that concern is to keep the lines of communication open. There is a tendency to let that slide during an illness, but this is one of those times when communicating with one another is super important.

Although none of us like to think about having to deal with a major illness, we believe the little colds and flu bugs are a way of helping us learn how to deal with the more serious illnesses that may come our way. So think of the next round of flu as a learning experience.

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