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Posted: February 22, 2007

Spousal Caregiving

Positive Mental Attitude Key to Caregiving Success

Bill Andrew

I have said it before and I will say it again: to be a successful caregiver, you need to "accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative."

This fact was driven home to me in a recent encounter with folks in my Alzheimer's support group. Negativity breeds contempt, and that is the last thing that a spousal caregiver needs. It should be obvious that if you are negative with your spouse, you are making your caregiver journey much more difficult. It also hurts your loved one and ruptures your love connection with them. As the old song goes, "accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative, and don't mess with mister in-between."

But what does that mean, and how do you go about attaining and maintaining a positive mental attitude? A positive mental attitude can be defined as a philosophy or belief that one can increase personal achievement through optimistic thought processes. That is, having a vision of good things causes changes in your personal mind-set about your situation in life. Your mental attitude is the medium by which you can balance your life and your relationship to people and circumstances, to achieve what you are seeking.

We are all born equal in the sense that we all have equal access to a singular principle, the right to control our own thoughts and mental attitude. Consider this: a positive mental attitude may, in fact, be one of life's greatest riches; it is through this attitude that anything worthwhile can be achieved.

Napoleon Hill, the best-selling author, is considered to have influenced more people into success than any other person in history. His book "Think and Grow Rich" describes the 17 success principles used by the great success stories of the early 20th-century. His philosophy of success can be summed up as "keep your mind on the things you want and off the things you don't want. Remember the old proverb 'be careful what you set your heart on, for you will surely achieve it.'"

Half-full or half-empty?

Imagine a glass with some water sitting in front of you. Is it half-full or half-empty? You realize, of course, that the answer to that question is entirely up you -- the choice is yours and yours alone. So, you can see that the very same reality can be seen in totally opposite ways -- in a positive way or a negative way, optimistically or pessimistically.

And remember, there is a positive side to anything, any situation, any event, any person. You just have to look at the world in a different way by trying to find the positive side of everything you encounter -- including spousal caregiving. At first, you might literally have to "dig it out" but after some time, it automatically appears to you. In fact, eventually you will see only the good side, the positive side.

How to remove negativity

All of the things you say you can't do or won't happen for you as a spousal caregiver will not happen with a negative attitude! Thinking negatively -- I can't do it -- will keep you from getting the things done that need to be done for your loved one and for yourself. The only person who can remove all the negativity from your spousal caregiving life is you!

The most important thing you can do to remove negativity from your life as a spousal caregiver is to have a positive train of thought for every situation you encounter. While this may be difficult, what you think is what will happen. Thinking you cannot accomplish something will keep you from doing that thing. Negativity in your spousal caregiver life is a major downfall. You cannot accomplish anything without having positive thoughts. Anything you want to do for your spouse or yourself requires that you think positive thoughts in order to succeed.

Negative thoughts will develop into negative actions; that is, when you physically won't go after the things that you need or want because your thoughts will keep you from doing something to get those things. Since you think that you can not do it or have something, you won't go after it and you will never get what you want. On the other hand, positive thoughts will develop into positive actions.

Negativity in our lives typically is derived from low self-esteem or a lack of confidence. This is when we don't believe in ourselves and our abilities, and we feel that we don't deserve what we are seeking. The first thing you must do as a spousal caregiver is build up your self-esteem in order to believe in yourself. Believe that you can accomplish anything as a spousal caregiver -- or in your life -- and you will have the reliance, the confidence, to go after it. This will help you to lose a lot of negative thoughts right there. It is essential that you remove all negative thoughts and actions from your life as a spousal caregiver -- and as a person.

Think positively

Think positively about everything you want to do as a spousal caregiver and it will come to you eventually. Develop the attitude that you can get anything you set out to have -- and once you decide this, nothing can stop you from accomplishing what you want.

Remember, you want to do the very best that you can for your loved one -- that should be a prime motivator for positive action. While keeping your thought train like this, you are removing all negativity from your life and you can concentrate on the positive aspects of providing quality care for your loved one. You must also surround yourself with positive people to prevent the negativity from creeping back into your life. If you are around negative people, you can't help but be negative as well. There is no one to encourage you to have positive thoughts if everyone around you is negative. The old saying goes "birds of a feather flock together."

Remove yourself from negative people and negative environments -- surround yourself with positive people and positive environments. That is why I am so high on support groups -- while those in the support group may initially be negative, they become very positive as they gain the support and confidence that comes from caregiver peers seeking a common solution.

It takes time to develop and maintain a positive train of thought. Once you decide that you don't want negativity in your life as a caregiver and you disconnect yourself from the people who have nothing but negative thoughts, you can accomplish your goal of being a positive person, a positive spousal caregiver.

Whenever something happens in your caregiving journey, don't automatically think negatively about the situation, no matter what it is. And remember, as we said above, there is a positive side to everything! Practice to think only positive thoughts and eventually, this will become a part of you. Once you have eliminated all negativity in your life, you will have the positive aspects of being able to provide the quality care that you want for your loved one -- and for yourself.

Tips for achieving a positive mental attitude

In researching this column, I came across the following tips for achieving a positive mental attitude. Some of them may work for you without trying; others may require more effort on your part:



Greet people courteously.

Be enthusiastic.

Dream. Engage in "imagineering." Set a goal. Aim high.

Act on your plan. Don't make excuses.

Be single-minded in your purpose.

Love your work as a spousal caregiver.

Be focused at all times. Be dedicated and disciplined.

Show commitment

Strive for excellence. Set your own benchmark.

Be humble and open-minded.

Be open to change. Don't be afraid to take risks.

Don't be judgmental. Forgive and forget.

Develop a loving attitude to everyone around you.

Accept adversity and disappointments. Overcome them and move on -- stronger than before.

Cultivate a working philosophy of life. Turn every experience, good or bad, into a learning experience.

Be your own critic. Strive for improvement.

Live each day as though it were your last. Live life to the fullest.

Remember, we are not human beings having a spiritual experience; rather, we are spiritual beings having a human experience.

Always keep your face to the sun -- and the shadows will fall behind you.

Problem solving the positive way

Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, one of the famous authors of positive thinking, once had a visitor who told him:

"Doctor, I have so many problems; I don't know how to face them. Can you help me?"

Dr. Peale responded: "If I understand you correctly, you would like to find a place where there are no problems."

The visitor replied: "Yes, that's it. I am ready to give everything I have for that."

In reply, Dr. Peale said: "That is not necessary. I will take you to a place where there are no problems. In fact, there are 15,000 persons there who do not have any problems."

And Dr. Peale took the the nearest cemetery!

As you well know, life is full of problems. And being a spousal caregiver has given you a whole new set of problems to solve. Now you know that each new problem that you encounter brings you face to face with both positive and negative aspects of life. If you concentrate on the negative, your life will be hell. On the contrary, if you learn to discover the positive opportunity that lies hidden in each spousal caregiver problem, you will have achieved a level of satisfaction that you are doing the best possible job that you can for your loved one.

So, the next time that you face a spousal caregiving problem, take the time to examine it from all angles and change your point of view until you see the positive side. Try it -- you might like it! 

If you have any comments or thoughts about the above, drop me a line at and I will share them with other readers in a future column.


"Whatever the mind can conceive and believe,

the mind can achieve."

Napoleon Hill (1883-1970)

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

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