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Thursday, June 6, 2013

Love and Having PH

Jen Cueva and husband
Whether you are dating, engaged or newly married, having your significant other transition into a caregiving role can be difficult and overwhelming. You may feel guilty for placing a “burden” on your significant other. You may even feel unsure about how to initiate the conversation about PH. You can tell your significant other has a lot of questions too. We spoke to PH patients who have been through this challenging time and received some of their advice:

Build your relationship. Especially if you are in a new relationship, you may feel reluctant to reveal the realities of living with PH and that’s okay. Diagnosed at age 5, Hannah spent her dating years with PH and says she “never made a big deal about [her] disease.” Instead, she notes it is important to get to know each other first. Regardless of your disease state, all relationships are based on mutual trust, care and respect. Once your relationship has a solid foundation, feel free to share as much or as little as you want about your life with PH.

Hannah Lahmeyer, husband, and precious daughter
Be honest. When you do decide to talk to your significant other about taking on a caregiving role, it is important to be honest. You want to make sure you significant other is prepared for living a life with PH. Consider these tips when preparing to talk to your significant other about PH:
1. Encourage your partner to visit the to educate themselves about PH
2. Take your significant other to a doctor appointment with you and give your significant other a chance to ask the doctor or nurses any questions
3. Do not hide or exaggerate any part of your diagnosis or medical needs

Especially if you are engaged or considering marriage, you and your significant other may also want to discuss finances. As you already know, treating PH can be very expensive and your significant other may be unaware of the full costs. Ensure you talk openly and honestly about budget and health insurance concerns. If you and your significant other have a tight budget, meet with a financial adviser or visit to find ways to cut drug costs and other expenses.

Split up responsibilities. As Kevin, a newly diagnosed patient, admits “daily chores can be doubled, as the caregiver is doing for themselves as well as for us.” Though this may be the case, there are still things you can do to help ease the workload of your significant other. If it is difficult for you to go grocery shopping, consider creating the grocery list and planning meals for the week instead. If your significant other provides the income for both of you, make the budget and find ways to cut costs. On good days, try to wash clothes or straighten up around the house. Even if you cannot do as much as you’d like, your significant other will appreciate your efforts.

Kevin Paskawych and wife
Care for your significant other. Kevin reminds us that your significant other chooses to live with PH and care for you. Don’t forget your significant other has needs and feelings too! Diagnosed in 2005, Jen’s husband did not hesitate to take on a caregiving role. She admits she feels her husband “gets the bad end of the deal” from the ups and downs of PH and works very hard to take care of her. However, Jen does what she can to stay connected with her husband and ensure he remains healthy.

Jen recommends making sure your significant other has time for self-care. Encourage your significant other to take a few hours or a day to spend time with friends and other family members. Look for a fun art or fitness class for your significant other to take. If your finances allow it, surprise your significant other with a massage or spa day. Also, suggest joining PHA Caregiver Mentors or a PHA Support Group.

It is also important to pay attention to your significant other’s mental, physical and emotional health when they become your caregiver. Try to make a daily habit of asking your significant other about their day, and how they are feeling and encourage them to answer honestly. Pay attention to symptoms of caregiver burnout, which include changes in weight, changes in sleep patterns and feeling sad and irritable. If your significant other demonstrates any of those symptoms, consider talking to them about seeking help from a doctor or counselor.

Most importantly, don’t let caregiving get in the way of your romantic relationship with your significant other. Go out for dates, or plan one at home. Complement each other. Laugh, love and most of all have PHun!

By Imani Marks, Patient & Caregiver Services Intern 

Special thanks to Jen, Hannah, and Kevin who contributed their stories and advice for this story. 

Article also featured in PathLight


  1. This was very helpful, thank you. I've been having some relationship issues or i had, i just broke up with my significant other of four years, it was hard dealing with him and myself. It still is..I'm learning and healing...Thanks again.
    Anna from Cali