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Making Sure Household Chores Get Done

Older man on ladder clearing rain gutter

When your spouse can no longer do a chore that’s beyond your abilities, what are your options?

Every marriage sees a division of labor. The problem, of course, isn’t who does which job. It’s who will take care of a task when the person who has done it is too old, too sick, or too frail to do it. For example, with Mom sick, how will Dad eat a healthy dinner when he can barely boil water?

Sometimes it’s easy enough to take over a task or to learn a new skill. But if you’re faced with a job that’s beyond you physically or that requires a steep learning curve, here are some options to explore.

Seasonal Work

For occasional or short-term chores that require strength or some skill—cleaning the garage, installing or removing air conditioners, or cleaning gutters—ask neighbors for recommendations for a reliable handyman. But they may not be able to fit you in when you need the work done. If so, what about neighborhood teens who might be happy to make a few extra dollars on a Saturday afternoon? Check with schools, churches, and even Scout troops. They can match you with teens who need volunteer or service work for college applications, confirmation, or merit badges.

Money Matters

If you’ve been happy to let your spouse pay the bills and balance the checkbook throughout your marriage, you may be extremely nervous at the thought of assuming financial responsibility. Relax! Many banks can walk you through the basics. Arrange an appointment at your local branch. They can also assist with setting up automatic bill-paying so nothing falls through the cracks.


Does your culinary expertise begin and end with pouring a bowl of cold cereal? You’ll be happy to know there’s a world of options beyond frozen dinners. The first step is to make a list of your favorite flavors and dishes. You can then either look for recipes (online as well as in cookbooks and magazines), or try the recipes your spouse used. If your initial attempts don’t match your spouse’s efforts, don’t worry—cooking is one area where practice pays off.

If you’re still overwhelmed, visit the supermarket during the day. This is when the meat, fish, and produce departments are likely to be staffed. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. “Can I use this in a salad?” “What kind of beef do I use for stew?” “What’s the easiest way to cook salmon?” Most staff will be happy to help, and grocery stores often have recipes you can look at to see what other ingredients you might need.


More Care for Caregivers

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Groceries on kitchen counter
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Feet of a person relaxing in a pool float on a lake
Three open Chinese food cartons with white rice, fried rice, and spicy Szechuan chicken and chopsticks, packets of soy sauce, duck sauce, and spicy mustard on wooden surface
Stop sign
Assistive chair in shower
Older woman holding cordless phone receiver to her ear
Espresso on marble countertop with flower design in foam
Older man on ladder clearing rain gutter
Folder labeled "Medical" in open file cabinet
An elderly person's New York City apartment
Person at cutting board slicing peppers
Woman sitting with crossed legs stretching one arm over her head while other arm rest on the floor
Physician checking a woman's blood pressure
Older couple holding hands
Elderly couple, woman, facing camera, resting her head on man's shoulder. Man is looking down at her.