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Posted: November 04, 2004

Spousal Caregiving

My Labor of Love!

Bill Andrew

I started working on this first column on Labor Day 2004 -- and this was no coincidence. As a 24-hour-per-day, 7-day-per-week caregiver for a loved one with late-stage Alzheimer's disease, I perform a true ?Labor of Love.? This is especially true as my loved one is my wife of 53 years, someone to whom I vowed before God "to have and to hold, in sickness and in health, ?til death do us part."

When we renewed our wedding vows on our Golden Wedding Anniversary three years ago, I also made my ?Golden Commitment? to Carol -- a 24/7 caregiving commitment that I am keeping on a daily basis, before Carol and before God, to provide quality care for Carol in our own home.

We have both had good health for many years, but 10 years ago, the specter of Alzheimer's disease changed our lives forever. Since that time, I have learned a lot about caregiving for a loved one with Alzheimer's. This column will share what I have learned about Alzheimer's disease and the spousal caregiving requirements thereof, including family caregiving across the board for all spouses afflicted with any disease. Whether you are a husband taking care of your wife, or a wife taking care of your husband, what I will share with you applies as much to you as it does to me.

My name is Bill Andrew and I am almost 76 years of age as this column is being written. My wife, Carol, will be 75 this month. We live in Winter Haven, Florida, a location in Central Florida that was ravaged by both Hurricanes Charley, Frances and Jeanne in the early fall. Obviously, we really did not need the additional challenges of these storms at this stage of Carol 's Alzheimer's, but that was part of God's plan, and we survived.

I am a retired registered professional engineer, hold a master of engineering degree, and possess more than 52 years of diversified information technology and industrial engineering experience. Currently semi-retired, I continue to provide research and consulting assistance to healthcare-related organizations with specific focus on electronic health records and clinical information systems.

Over the past 10 years, I have transitioned from being a retired consulting industrial engineer to a retired (and often just plain tired) caregiver for Carol. I am computer-literate and have done significant research on Alzheimer's disease and family caregiving. While being a 24/7 caregiver for Carol is itself a full-time job, I do other things to supplement my income, to educate myself about Alzheimer's and family caregiving, and to share what I have learned with others who are in the same boat as I am.

For example:

  • I facilitate an Alzheimer's support group here in Winter Haven.
  • I am the vice-chairman of Polk County Family Caregivers, Inc., in Lakeland, Florida, an affiliate of the National Family Caregivers Association.
  • I am a firm believer in "therapeutic nutrition" for caregivers and their loved ones, have done considerable research in this area, and market a unique patented glyconutritional product with scientifically proven results.
  • I conduct research and provide consulting assistance on the electronic health record, currently a top priority of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
  • I am part of a national project team focused on developing a "physician-friendly" electronic health record selector tool for physician group practices.
  • I provide consulting services for information technology vendors and healthcare providers with a special focus on the electronic health record.
  • I do a lot of personal research into Alzheimer's disease, family caregiving, and therapeutic nutritional alternatives to traditional medications.
  • I provided support and advice to LeAnn Thieman, LPN, co-author of the recently published book ?Chicken Soup for the Caregiver's Soul.?
  • Our primary family caregiver support comes from our sons and their families, as well as our siblings. All of this support is long-distance. We also have friends here in Winter Haven who provide support as needed. One thing for sure: all family caregivers need both educational and support assistance!

    In writing this weekly column, I will be drawing upon my extensive personal and professional experiences, as well as those of guest columnists. I will establish a series of topics to be covered periodically as well as provide an ample opportunity for your questions and my response. I view this as very much a work in progress, and your input is extremely important.

    When Chris Pederson, editor and publisher, asked me to do this column, I had to think hard and long: When will I find the time to do this? Will I be over-committing myself? Upon reflection, and prayer, it was obvious that this is an opportunity to share what I have learned the hard way as a spousal caregiver. God has a plan for each one of us, we just have to recognize what that plan is and then move forward. I truly believe that God's plan for Carol and me was to challenge each of us in a different way, Carol with the Alzheimer's disease and me with the 24/7 caregiver role.

    Now that plan will be bearing greater fruit since I can share with you, and you can share your thoughts and questions with me. Won't you join me? I look forward to hearing from you.

    You can contact me at ASKBill@caregivershome.com with any questions, comments, or suggestions you might have for this column. Keep in mind that I may publish them. You can also contact me at wfandrew@caregivershome.com with any personal issues you might want to express to me which will be held in confidence and will not be published. I can not provide any medical, legal, or other advice that would require specific licensure, but I will openly share my personal experiences. May God bless you.


    _____

    WORDS TO CARE BY ?

    "Patience is the companion of wisdom!"

    ( St. Augustine )


    Bill Andrew identifies himself as a former “nutritionally-empowered Alzheimer’s caregiver” who attributes the slow-down in progression of Alzheimer’s disease in his wife, Carol – and the growth of his own personal emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual capability and strength to provide quality 24/7 care for her in their own home – to the targeted nutritional supplements they both took on a daily basis. Carol went to her Heavenly reward on June 9, 2008 – Bill continues on to advocate for family caregivers. Contact Bill with your caregiving questions and comments via email at ASKBill@caregivershome.com.

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    © 2004 Pederson Publishing, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
    Commercial use, redistribution or other forms of reuse of this information is strictly prohibited without the prior written permission of Pederson Publishing.

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