Keeping the Flame Alive While Providing Care for Your Spouse

In sickness and in health” takes on a new meaning as we age. Especially if you said your wedding vows when you were younger, the whole “in sickness” part seemed like something in the far, far distant future — and besides, you had a wedding cake to eat!

Like most marriages that have withstood the test of time, you might enter a phase where your spouse needs more assistance, due to an illness or injury. If you’re the caretaker, we know it can be daunting to provide not only healthcare support, but also keep up the emotional support of a relationship. But you don’t have to do it alone. Your spouse can help, too. Adding a sense of love and partnership into a relationship is an important part of a caregiver relationship, notes AARP.1

We hope the “in health” part is right around the corner, but in the meantime, we’ve come up with a few ways to help spark your flame:

Let’s get physical

Our bodies change as we age and so can our feelings and desires about sex. Talk openly with your spouse about their expectations and what they feel comfortable doing (or not doing). You might want to talk to their doctor to see if any modifications need to be made before becoming intimate. Of course, there are plenty of other ways to restore a physical connection that don’t involve sex. Holding hands, hugging, massages, kissing and snuggling are all ways to feel connected to your spouse.

Sneak in romance during day-to-day activities

Especially if you’re doing the bulk of the caretaking, many of your activities can feel repetitive: cleaning, preparing meals, doing household chores and coordinating visits with the doctor. However, here are a few ways to spice up your day-to-day routine:

  • Bring in fresh flowers, light a candle or dim the lights during mealtime. (You don’t have to wait until dinner — try it for breakfast!)
  • What songs were played at your wedding? Re-create the playlist and put it on while you’re doing household chores.
  • After or before a doctor’s appointment, surprise your spouse by going to one of their favorite places in town — a store, recreational area or restaurant.

Ask interesting questions

Relationship experts will tell you that communication is key to a healthy relationship. But when you’ve been with someone for so long and know them so well, it might feel like you don’t have anything “new” to say or ask. Not true! It might just mean you don’t know what questions to ask. Here are a few to get started:

  • What’s been our best date?
  • What celebrity chef do you wish could make us dinner?
  • What’s the funniest prank you ever pulled as a kid?
  • What do you wish you would’ve known when you were twenty?

Find a shared passion

Depending on your spouse’s condition, they might not be able to do the same type or amount of physical activities or hobbies they used to do. Together, the two of you could brainstorm some modifications. For example, if they used to run regularly, but can’t anymore — maybe signing up for a water aerobics class could be of interest. If low-impact exercise or leaving the house isn’t possible, think about some ways to bring joy to your home life: Maybe it’s putting on a themed movie night, scrapbooking or cooking new foods from your favorite vacation destinations.

We know that when you’re caretaking, you’re taking on extra “work” that you’re not used to. But adding in a little bit of romance or going out of your way to show your partner how much you care can help lighten the burden.

Links to various other websites from this site are provided for your convenience only and do not constitute or imply endorsement by Humana, Inc. or its subsidiaries of these sites, any products, views, or services described on these sites, or of any other material contained therein. Humana disclaims responsibility for their content and accuracy.


  1. “How to Be a Partner, Not a Parent, When Providing Care for a Spouse,” last accessed August 3, 2022,