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Posted: April 19, 2007

Spousal Caregiving

Can You Help Me?

Bill Andrew

As I sit here at my computer getting ready to write this column, I realized that I did not know what I was going to write about. Chris Pederson, my publisher, likes to have new and fresh caregiving ideas in each column and does not like to rehash that which was discussed in a previous column. Often, I sit here with writer's block until such time as the spirit moves me! And the "spirit" has moved me to write the following.

After writing these columns for the past 2½ years -- this is column #112 -- it gets a little difficult to come up with something original each and every column. And today was no exception. As many readers of this column already know, I am the 24/7 caregiver for my wife, Carol, who is afflicted with late-stage Alzheimer's disease. Since I have been her caregiver for almost 13 years, the disease has continued its relentless progress, and Carol is becoming more and more dependent upon me. Carol is also a homebound hospice patient. Often, I can easily spend 6-8 hours each day in one-on-one caregiving contact with her -- toileting, feeding, bathing, dressing, interacting, just being with her -- it gets very tiring and takes a lot out of me.

And still, I can find time to write this column (mostly every week), facilitate an Alzheimer's support group, chair a county-wide family caregiver organization, help plan a county-wide family caregiver summit, conduct research and publish results on the electronic health record, chair special events in my church, and still have time to maintain a household and yard.

Perhaps the reason for my survival as a spousal family caregiver to this point has been my philosophy that "loving is giving and giving is loving." Let me explain that it often helps me to be able to share my personal spousal caregiving experience with others -- hence, "giving is loving." Because of my love for Carol, with whom I have shared almost 56 years of married life, my approach to spousal family caregiving is doing it with love -- hence, "loving is giving."

Right now, I do not feel very good. I caught some type of "bug" that has given me a sore throat, runny nose, coughing, and a general feeling of not being well -- despite what I am doing to correct the situation. Obviously, given everything described above, I am also tired much of the time. And this is interfering with my ability to provide quality care for Carol. So I am turning to you, dear reader, to see if you could help me out of my present dilemma.

First, do any of you have any clinical remedies that have worked for you in similar spousal caregiving situations? If so, I would appreciate hearing about them. I do have two four-hour respite care days each week, on Mondays and Fridays. I also have homemaker support for three hours on Wednesdays. A hospice volunteer sits with Carol for two hours on Thursdays. So I am getting plenty of support in that way. Other than prescription medications, I am looking for home remedies that have worked for you. Any ideas?

Second, you can access the entire "Spousal Archive" section of this website -- all 111 previous columns. These cover a multitude of spousal caregiving ideas, suggestions, experiences, and other discussions I have shared with you. My question to you now in this regard is this: what would you like to read about in future columns? What have I missed that is important to you? Are there any spousal caregiving issues that you feel need to be explored in more detail? What are your issues and concerns as you provide care for your spouse? Any ideas?

Each of you has different experiences as a caregiver. You may have addressed your personal situation in ways that may be helpful to me -- and to other readers of this column. Can you help me?

If you have any comments or thoughts about the above, drop me a line at ASKBill@caregivershome.com and I will share them with other readers in a future column. Rest assured, I will be deeply appreciative of whatever support that you can provide to me in my time of need.

WORDS TO CARE BY . . .

"One of the most sublime experiences we can ever have

is to wake up feeling healthy after we have been sick."

Rabbi Harold Kushner (1935-)


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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