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Posted: February 07, 2008

Spousal Caregiving

Caregiver Wanted: Patience Required (Do You Qualify?)

Bill Andrew

In a previous column, I discussed the role of humility as the foundation of faith-based family caregiving. Humility is not a sign of weakness; its practice requires great courage on the part of the family caregiver. In that same column, I defined the "bottom line" as "to be a good spousal family caregiver for your loved one, you must be humble." In this column, I would like to share some thoughts on the virtue of patience, how it builds on humility, its role in being a good spousal caregiver, and how I have learned it the hard way.

Virtue has been defined as an acquired habit making it easier for one to perform good actions and works. It has also been defined, in a Biblical sense, as a principle of action God infuses into the soul and which enables the virtue to perform supernatural action. As a rule, the Bible uses virtue in the sense of moral excellence -- the virtues of faith, hope, charity, justice, fortitude, patience, humility. These virtues are opposed to vices, or moral weaknesses.

Patience is the virtue of calmly enduring mental, physical, or spiritual anguish, not because of pride or worldly ambition but out of love of God, of our loved one, and in union with Jesus Christ, our supreme model in the practice of this virtue. Both the Old and New Testaments have many passages that describe patience. The patience of Job is proverbial (Job 2:9, 7:2). The patience of man quiets strife created by passion (Proverbs 15:18); he is to be esteemed above the valiant (Proverbs 16:32). The Christian must be patient with those who afflict him (Matthew 5:38-40), rejoicing in tribulations as a trial of virtue (Romans 5:3). Patience is one of the fruits of the Spirit listed by St. Paul (Galatians 5:22).

As many readers know, I have been the 24/7 family caregiver for my wife, Carol, who has late stage Alzheimer's disease, for more than 13 years. Carol, my wife of over 56 years, is totally dependent upon me for everything. I have learned to be patient -- often the hard way -- and these are some of the lessons I have learned:

Prayer is the key -- prayer provides me with the ability to be patient with Carol and to deal with each situation as we encounter it.

Develop a consistent philosophy of life. Take life as a caregiver one day at a time. Consider each new day as a gift of life that will allow you to get one step closer to being more patient with your loved one.

Accept the reality of your humanity in that you are going to need time, effort, and energy to change and grow. Realize that it won't happen overnight.

Reframe your perspective on the past, present, and future. Do not dwell on past mistakes and failings as a caregiver. Do not worry about what you will become or how you will act in the future. Begin to live each day as a fresh start -- for you and for your loved one.

Systematize your care plan for each day. If you have things planned out and if you follow that plan, the chances of becoming frustrated -- and therefore impatient -- are minimized.

Accept, understand, and forgive yourself for being fragile, imperfect, and weak. You need to become your own best friend and cheerleader. Love yourself as God loves you.

Wake up to the realities of life around you. Everyone with whom you come into daily contact has their own set of problems -- as does your loved one. Since we are all on the path to personal growth, why should you as a caregiver be any different? Accept who and what you are and move on.

Hand over and let go of the worries, concerns, anxieties, and doubts about your caregiving role. Just do it and accept the fact that this is a cross that you are going to have to bear.

Confront your fears about being a caregiver. Lots of help is available to you if you but know where and how to find it. Remember, the world was not created in a day. A lifetime is not lived in a day. Becoming a good caregiver takes time -- it can not happen overnight.

Modify your spiritual perspective to include God as a guide on this "journey of faith." Pray.

In the book of Daniel from the Old Testament (Daniel 12:12), it is said: "Blessed is the man (woman) who has patience and perseveres…" In St. Paul's letter to the Ephesians (Ephesians 4:2), he says: "…live in a manner worthy of the call you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another through love…"

Here’s the bottom line: to be a good spousal family caregiver for your loved one, you must be humble -- and patient. These traits will take you many, many miles.

Please e-mail me at ASKBill@caregivershome.com with your comments and/or reactions. I will include them in a future column with your permission. Provide your full name and address. In the column, I will only use your first name and the initial of your last name as well as your city and state. Thank you.

WORDS TO CARE BY . . .

"Patience is the greatest of all virtues. "

Cato the Elder (234 BC - 149 BC)


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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