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Posted: January 27, 2005

Spousal Caregiving

?ASK Bill? Questions and (I Hope Helpful) Answers

Bill Andrew

Periodically, I will address questions submitted by spousal caregivers. This is the first of those ?ASK Bill? question-and-answer columns. As I indicated in my initial column in November, I will from time to time draw upon my extensive personal and professional experiences to hopefully help others in their caregiving. I also indicated that there would be ample opportunity for your questions and my response. This is such an opportunity ? I view this as very much a work in progress, and your input is extremely important. While I cannot provide any medical, legal, or other advice that would require specific licensure, I will openly share my personal experiences and advice.

Several questions have been submitted by readers of this column. I am sure that many others of you have questions that reflect your concerns as a spousal caregiver. As this column proceeds, please submit your questions and comments to ASKBill@caregivershome.com. Remember, I can only give you my thoughts on your situation ? based upon my personal spousal caregiver experiences. The question in this week?s column is typical of those that I receive on a personal basis from family, friends, and neighbors.

Dear Bill:

How do you find time for yourself during the day? At night, I am often trying to catch up on what could not be accomplished during the day because of my caregiving responsibilities. How do I make some time for myself to relieve the stress and strain of caregiving? You seem to have an action plan as a spousal caregiver. Please help me.

Betty A., Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Dear Betty,

Thank you for your e-mail question. The key word in your question is ?plan!? I would refer you to my early December column entitled ?A Prescription for Caregiving? wherein I briefly mention planning. I will explore that topic in more detail in a future column.

Starting at 6 a.m. each day, I really do have an ?action plan? that I try to follow meticulously throughout that day. Every activity for my wife, Carol, was originally written down. However, after all these years, it has become a habit for me and for her. At 6 p.m., we start the bedtime ritual and she is usually asleep by 7 p.m. each night. That gives me about three hours to unwind, relax, read, work on the computer, watch television, etc.

This daily action plan (or schedule) helps both Carol and me. Since we have this routine down pat, she knows what to expect throughout the day ? and so do I. Respite care on Monday mornings gives me an opportunity to run errands for the week such as grocery shopping, banking, post office, etc. Homemaking services on Wednesday mornings relieves me of that weekly responsibility. I also prioritize various jobs and activities ? if it doesn?t get done that day, so what! Remember, though, you must try very hard to adhere to your planned schedule each day until it becomes a habit.

The most important job that you and I have each day is to provide quality care for our loved one. And planning each day for your loved one is a ?very good habit.?

Carol and I spend most of our day together in our Florida room (you might call it your family room). I moved my computer and office into this room so Carol can see me and I can see her. Classical music seems to soothe both of us. Thus, I can determine her needs as they arise since we are so close together. When she dozes, I can usually get things done a little at a time.

Regarding time for myself during the day, I try to work that in by taking a five or 10 minute break each hour ? if the situation allows. This means making Carol comfortable and going outside in the sun for a while. This provides me with a new environment and perspective. You also need to breathe deeply and try to relax. These ?power breaks? really do help ? try it sometime and work it into your daily schedule. I will discuss this subject in more detail in a future column on stress and stress management.

Betty, I hope that the above helps put some perspective into my caregiving role and that will also help you in yours. God bless you for being a dedicated spousal caregiver.

If you would like to ask a question about your spousal caregiving ?job?, do not hesitate to send me an e-mail at ASKBill@caregivershome.com. Remember, I can only share my personal experiences with you and can not provide any advice that would require specific licensure. May God continue to bless you as a spousal caregiver.

WORDS TO CARE BY?

?that?He may grant you to be strengthened with might through His Spirit??

(Ephesians 3:16)


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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