As our bodies grow older we inevitably face lifestyle changes. These changes are a natural part of aging, but they can put strain on even the strongest relationship.

If your partner has recently begun to use a wheelchair for mobility, you might be experiencing that strain right now. Everything changes when mobility methods change - couples who have spent the better part of their lives together can suddenly feel like strangers, because they’re both having such different day-to-day experiences.

Let us assure you - it’s completely normal to feel that way, and it doesn’t have to last forever. Below you’ll find some tips to smooth the transition - for both of you.

1. Care for the caregiver

We can’t stress this one enough: if you’re caring for a partner new to a wheelchair, you have to take care of yourself. Your first inclination might be to sacrifice your own well-being to attend to their comfort, but this will likely end with exhaustion and illness on both your parts.

Your partner will find their way, and the more they learn to do for themselves, the more empowered they’ll be.

When you take time every day for your own health, you’re more resilient to the stress of such a big lifestyle change, and better able to be there when your partner really needs you.

2. Make your Occupational Therapist your best friend

Occupational therapists are specifically trained for situations like yours - their role is to follow a patient-centered practice that begins by looking at the areas of your day-to-day life that have been impaired.

More often than not when someone transitions to a wheelchair they’re assigned an occupational therapist by the hospital, but they may only pay you one or two visits. As daily life goes on, new issues or questions may arise.

An OT at an occupational therapy victoria clinic, then can work with you and your partner over time to optimize your living situation, and start to explore the factors that contribute to any problems that come up (whether they’re physical, cognitive, psychological, or social).

3. Get active, together

There are some wonderful resources out there for people in wheelchairs, especially when it comes to seniors fitness and well-being

Wheelchair Sports for instance, offers wheelchair sports and strength and conditioning classes for those who are chair-bound. They range from absolute beginners to folks who were quite active before this lifestyle change.

As a bonus, they’ve partnered with recreation facilities like sports institutes and recreation centres, which means you can do your own workout or fitness class while your partner gets the care and attention they need to stay active.

4. Talk to each other (or a professional)

An major life event like transitioning to a wheelchair will never be easy, for the person in question or their spouse. Allowing one another space to talk about whatever you might be feeling is an important part of the process.

If you’re finding things really challenging, remember that there’s always outside help available; counselling is a great avenue to explore if you need help coping with such a large change in life.

Our relationships are meant to nourish us, and they can be a huge part of a healthy life. Even when going through challenging transitions, with a little foresight and some simple actions, you and your partner can create healthy habits and support one another.