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Posted: September 06, 2007

Spousal Caregiving

A Labor of Love: 'Labor Day' is Every Day

Bill Andrew

Writing my column on this Labor Day 2007, I thought it appropriate to talk about the "labor of love" that goes into spousal caregiving -- at least from my perspective. I started working on the initial column for this Spousal Caregiving series on Labor Day 2004 in anticipation of our launch on November 4, 2004, with the title of My Labor of Love! In that column, I reflected on the history of Labor Day and how it related to spousal caregiving.

As a caregiver, you "labor" long and hard each day to provide quality care for your spouse. Some of you provide this labor by visiting with your loved one each day in a nursing facility. And some of you actually provide onsite care and support for your loved one in a nursing facility. Others of you, like myself, provide 24/7 onsite care and support for your loved one in the confines of your home.

If someone tells you that your "labor of love" is not a really tough job, just let them know what you do each and every day for your loved one -- toileting, bathing, diaper changes, daily laundry, dressing, feeding and drinking, medications, and the many other "activities of daily living" required to support your loved one. And then still have time to take care of everything else that you must do each and every day.

If this isn't "labor" in the truest sense of the word, I don't know what is. And your "labor day" is every day that you provide care for your spouse.

Three years later, my labor of love is still ongoing. That was never more evident than today as I put these words to paper. Carol awoke from her nap and had a "poopy" Depends waiting for me, much like your children did when they were small. That meant that I had to take care of the "mess," as I often did with our own children.

Obviously, the reality of the situation was the fact that since no one else was around to do the job, it was up to me. Thus, my perspective became one of getting the job done -- no matter how messy it was. That was the reality of the situation. That was my "labor of love."

In 1980, New York University neurologist Barry Reisberg, a pioneer in defining the stages and sub-stages of Alzheimer's disease, determined that there were precise inverse relationships between the stages of Alzheimer's disease and the phases of child development in the areas of cognition, coordination, language, feeding, and behavior. In neurological examinations, he found similarly precise inverse relationships in EEG activity, brain glucose metabolism, and neurological reflexes. Dr. Reisberg called this phenomenon "retrogenesis -- back to birth."

According to Dr. Reisberg, the science of retrogenesis can help caregivers forge a new understanding and appreciation of what their loved ones are going through. By viewing their loved ones as reverting back to childhood abilities and mentalities, caregivers can establish a more humane formula for their care. While this childhood analogy may upset many caregivers, that is the reality of the situation. Regardless of whether it feels demeaning for the loved one, retrogenesis can be instructive and helpful. Taking care of a spouse with Alzheimer's disease, as I do, is truly a labor of love.

In my experience as a 24/7 caregiver for Carol over these past 13 years, I have seen it all. Placing each day's activities and behaviors into the proper perspective helps me to be a better caregiver for Carol. I can assure you that it is not easy -- but it is the reality of the situation. With prayer -- lots of prayer -- I have found that I can do whatever it takes to get the job done. Putting everything into the proper perspective is, to my mind, the secret to successful caregiving. And, again, that is my labor of love.

Hopefully, you, the readers of this column, can relate to how I feel. I would like to hear your stories of your labor of love as you travel your own personal difficult long journeys with your spouses. If you would like to share those stories with other readers, please e-mail me at I will include your stories in a future column to provide inspiration to other spousal caregivers. Please provide your full name and address. In the column, I will only use your first name and the last initial of your last name as well as your city and state. Thank you.


"You can do no great things . . . just small things with great love."

Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta (1910-97)

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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