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Posted: December 14, 2006

Spousal Caregiving

We've Got the Gift That Keeps on Giving!

Bill Andrew

(Editor’s Note: With this column, we celebrate the 100th installment of Spousal Caregiving by Bill Andrew. As his editor, I know the path to No. 100 has not been easy for Bill, who remains a dedicated, loyal and loving caregiver to his wife, Carol. Still, Bill continues to find the time to write this weekly column to help other caregivers deal with the travails and enjoy the blessings they reap from their caregiving challenge. My hat’s off to Bill, and I hope you’ll join me in saluting him for touching and encouraging so many others like him. C.C.P.)

_____

It’s that time of year when we once again think about giving presents to our family and friends. While some people insist that these are holidays to be celebrated without regard to religion tradition, most people insist that these holidays be celebrated in the Christian tradition. In fact, did you know that the word "holiday" is derived from the Christian "holy day?"

As spousal caregivers, we all know what "giving" is all about, don't we? And while we often cannot give presents, in the usual sense of the word, to our loved ones, we can and do give of ourselves each and every day. And that is the mark of a true Christian and a compassionate person of other religious cultures and traditions.

Christmas is that time of the year when Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Other religious traditions have special occasions that are also celebrated during this "season of joy" but they tend to celebrate the Christmas holiday season with Christians. During this time of the year, regardless of religious belief, we all seem to have one thing in common: giving.

Traditionally, we all celebrate this Christmas holiday season as a season of giving -- giving presents to our families and friends, giving support for the poor and the needy, giving financial aid to the many agencies seeking our support, and just giving of ourselves for the benefit of others. Many of us make sure that we go to the church of our choice to celebrate the birth of Jesus and the establishment of Christianity. We share our Christmas greetings and sentiments with our family and friends. These are all gifts of giving that we share with each other without a second thought.

A Caregiver's Gifts

As spousal caregivers, we are also giving at this time of the year. However, for us this giving is not a seasonal thing. Our gift of giving is a year-round event, day in and day out -- "the gift that keeps on giving!" And that is what caregiving is all about: giving of ourselves for the benefit of our loved ones. This is really the ultimate gift of giving -- giving of our selves! And isn’t that what true love is all about?

Our Christmas gifts are typically wrapped in fancy paper, ribbons, and bows to make them look attractive to the intended recipients. The fancier the wrapping, the more conscious we are of the intent of the giver and the contents of the gift.

God has given us the ultimate gift in His Divine Son, Jesus Christ. He also comes wrapped in exquisite gift paper, ribbons, and bows. As caregivers, let us open that Gift of God very tenderly and lovingly and share it with our loved ones during this Christmas season. The gift I speak of is prayer -- an essential element in our kit bag of resources as we provide the gift of giving for our loved one. Of course, prayer is not unique to Christian religion; it is a key underpinning for all religions albeit in various forms and methods of presentation.

Regardless of the illness or disability afflicting our spouses, they may still have memories of a Christmas Past (to paraphrase Charles Dickens.) Christmas Present is here and now. We should live for the present moment because Christmas Future may never come for our loved one. Perhaps prayer will evoke past Christmas memories, if your loved one is memory-impaired, as is my wife, Carol.

I try to keep our religious and Christmas memories -- Christmas Past -- alive since they were, and still are, such an important foundation for our love. I do this by attending Church services, singing Christmas carols, listening to Christmas music, and other Christmas-related activities. And, often, I do get her attention and that gives us Christmas Present. God has been good . . . and perhaps we can look forward to Christmas Future.

As a spousal caregiver, I am sure that you have found yourselves praying more and more for divine guidance and assistance as you learn the lessons of spousal caregiving. I know that prayer sustains both Carol and me on a daily basis. This Gift of God is especially highlighted during this Christmas season when everything around us is focused on the reason for the season -- the birth of Jesus Christ. Let us thank God for granting us the graces and blessings that we need to continue to provide our respective gifts of giving for our loved ones. Let us continue to give "the gift that keeps on giving."

Gifts for the Caregiver

Perhaps you are not a spousal caregiver per se' but know someone who is. Have you ever thought about the type of gifts that the spousal caregiver would most appreciate? Anyone who cares for a loved one with a serious illness or disability can use help, pampering, and a break -- something that goes double during the Christmas holidays! So why not consider Christmas gifts that fulfill a need, lighten a caregiver's workload, or create a little joy for both the spousal caregiver and their loved one.

Many of the following ideas will not cost you any money -- only some of your time. Perhaps you would also consider providing a "gift that keeps on giving" for the rest of the year. Many spousal caregivers tend to be silent about their needs and are often stretched to the breaking point. They would appreciate your offering some of the following "gifts:"

Spend time as a sitter for the spousal caregiver so they can take some time for themselves to get the things done that seem never to get done. This could be during the day, evening, or weekend.

Stop by and visit with the caregiver and their loved one occasionally.

Assist with household jobs such as cleaning, cooking, yard work, etc.

Provide occasional meals so that the spousal caregiver does not have to prepare them.

Do the shopping for the caregiver (groceries, toiletries, etc.)

Run various errands that the caregiver may not have time to do.

Take care of the loved one while the caregiver goes to church services.

Call the spousal caregiver often -- many times, the caregiver becomes isolated from family and friends.

Give a gift certificate for pampering services such as a massage, hair styling, a spa visit, etc.

Decorate the house or yard since the caregiver usually does not have time to do so.

Ask the caregiver what they need and then help them to get it!

Many family members, friends, neighbors, and acquaintances initially support the spousal caregiver with the above "gifts" when the caregiving activity started. But as time went by, they tend to slack off and are not heard from again until the loved one passes on. As a support group facilitator, one of the major complaints I often hear expressed in support group meetings is "where have all my friends gone?"

You, as a family member, friend, neighbor, or acquaintance, can pick up the slack and provide the caregiver with the "gift that keeps on giving" by being there and supporting them in their time of need. Then the caregiver will know that their family members, friends, neighbors, and acquaintances have not really "gone" but were waiting to be asked.

Carol and I wish you and yours a Blessed and Merry Christmas! May God be with you, your spouses, your families, and your friends during this joyous Christmas season.

If you would like to share your thoughts regarding the above with other readers of this column, drop me a line at ASKBill@caregivershome.com.

WORDS TO CARE BY . . .

"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace . . . ."

Luke 2:14


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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© 2006 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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