What To Do When Your Spouse is Diagnosed With A Chronic Illness (Part 2)

In our last post, we began a discussion about how to support your spouse when they’re diagnosed with a chronic illness. These diagnoses can be debilitating, and have the potential to permanently alter what your life looks like from now on. How you respond to the situation, particularly by supporting your spouse, will affect your shared experiences going forward.

If you’d like to read part one of this series, you can do so here. As a quick recap, the first things you can do to support your spouse include:

  • Pausing to understand your spouse’s condition and how it might be affecting them.
  • Considering how your spouse might need to feel loved during this time.
  • Acknowledging that both of you will grieve.

Seeking support from trusted friends and family, or even a licensed professional therapist, can make all the difference in how you process your own grief. In turn, this will have a direct effect on how you show up for your spouse.

Now, let’s continue with a few more ways that you can help support your spouse when they’ve received a chronic disease diagnosis.

4. Remove burdens from your spouse by picking up some of their usual tasks or bringing in additional help.

Your spouse will likely need to focus their attention and energy on learning to manage their condition. This will likely include some lifestyle changes that will help them to have a higher quality of life in the long run. Helping your spouse to make these adjustments might involve taking some of their normal tasks off their plate.

Depending on your time and energy reserves, you might be able to take on some of the tasks they usually handle, whether that has to do with managing the family’s money, household tasks, repairs, caring for your pets, and similar duties. If you’re already overtaxed and unable to pick up tasks for your spouse, consider bringing in some outside help.

Do you have young children? Enlist help so they can continue their normal routines. Do you have older kids? Have them step in and carry more responsibility at home. If you have parents, close relatives, or trusted friends nearby, ask for help. But if this isn’t an option for you, you might want to consider hiring someone to help you out.

Outsource what tasks you’re able to, and bring in support for your spouse’s health if that’s needed. As their primary caretaker, you’ll need to build a support system so that you can continue showing up for your spouse in the best way possible.

5. Consider adjusting your daily routines to support your spouse’s needs.

If you have the flexibility, make any necessary adjustments to your daily routines to better support your spouse’s health needs. This will need to involve a lot of communication. Don’t make changes based on assumptions. Instead, ask what they need, then respond accordingly.

For example, it’s possible that your spouse might not want to change your family’s rhythms. However, they might not be able to physically continue with business as usual. Honor what they want to do, helping to support them, but don’t be afraid to gently suggest adjustments and outside help if that’s warranted.

Your first priority is to try to support your spouse and to listen well, empathizing and internalizing what they’re asking of you. Making sure you both fully understand one another will go a long way toward harmony and peace as you’re navigating this diagnosis and the changes that come with it. Above all, you both need to be able to move forward in a healthy, productive way.

6. Take things one day at a time.

A new diagnosis brings many unknowns with it. That’s why it’s so important to take things one day at a time. Your spouse will have good days and not-so-good days, and neither of you will always be able to anticipate what kind of day lies ahead.

Go with the flow. Practice patience, grace, empathy, and love toward your spouse at every opportunity. Cherishing your spouse and intentionally showing them how much you love them will make it easier to navigate the unknown together. And, if you remain open and communicative, it will be much easier to manage the unpredictability that chronic illness can bring with it.

Christlike love helps us weather life’s challenges.

When life’s storms arise, loving like Jesus can see us through. And if your spouse is living through one of those storms right now–in the form of a chronic illness–you can provide so much comfort and support simply by loving like Christ did. Les’ book, Love Like That, will guide you through the nuances of Jesus’ love and show you how to embody that yourself. You can find your copy here.


  • Clara says:

    Will there be tips coming on how caregivers can care for themselves during this time? I’m wondering if one of the priorities is being certain the caregiver is healthy emotionally, physically, spiritually? I’m caring for my husband with advanced stages of Parkinsons and have noticed that if I’m not attentive to myself, I can’t care for him nearly as well.

  • Wayne says:

    So so true. I have many patients who had reasonably good health when they fell into the role of caregiver. I have seen too many of these folks deteriorate some to the point that I feared for their survival as much as that of their spouse. It is challenging and expensive for caregivers to meet the physical, emotional and financial needs of long term care. Some find incorporating outside heal out of reach and the hours of their days seem to increase every week. There is little to no social or societal help for the failing caregiver. Great question Clara.

  • I know the struggle, strain, and energy, all too well, it takes to care for a chronic ill spouse. My spouse started with a mild stroke. Got well but didn’t heal. I was able to get support from real friends, worship, prayer and being able to continue my work as a marriage therapist. When my spouse was put in Hospice she wanted to be at home. This worked out very well. God is good all the time.

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