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Posted: March 06, 2008

Spousal Caregiving

Fortitude: Another 'Must Have' Caregiver Virtue

Bill Andrew

In previous columns, I described the virtues of humility, patience, and perseverance and the role they play in the lives of spousal family caregivers. Specifically, I discussed the role that they have played in the nearly 14 years I have been the family caregiver for my wife, Carol, who has late-stage Alzheimer's disease and is currently a home hospice patient.

In this column, I want to build on humility, patience, and perseverance and show how they have provided me with the fortitude -- some would call it courage -- to provide quality care despite the fact that I have not had any specific training in being a family caregiver. In fact, I would be willing to bet that the majority of family caregivers became one by default -- that is, it just happened that they were in the "right" place at the "right" time to provide that care for their husband, wife or other loved one.

Just what is fortitude? Fortitude is the mental and emotional strength of mind to face difficulty, adversity, danger, or temptation with courage. The key word in this definition is "courage." The virtue of fortitude (courage) is firmness of spirit and steadiness of will in doing good despite obstacles which could impact the performance of our daily duty. It suppresses inordinate fear and curbs recklessness. Because fortitude also moderates rashness, it is the special virtue of pioneers in any field. And we spousal family caregivers are indeed "pioneers" in the field of family caregiving.

The virtue of fortitude brings to those who have it a dauntless spirit of resolution, a firmness of mind, and an indomitable will to persevere with a quiet faith in God's providence that overcomes all obstacles. It also brings the courage to persevere despite these obstacles. Both the Old and New Testament have many references to the virtue of fortitude.

I have found that it takes a lot of fortitude (courage) for me to be humble, to be patient, and to persevere as I provide care for my wife. And for a man, that is not an easy thing to say! Women tend to be more nurturing because they bear children who require significant nurturing. As husbands, we tend not to be as nurturing as our wives -- and hence the difficulty in adjusting to new things in our lives that require such nurturing. And being a 24/7 caregiver for your wife takes a lot of adjustment -- especially since most husbands have never done this before. And that adjustment often requires fortitude.

The bottom line: to be a good spousal caregiver for your husband or wife, you must be humble, you must be patient, you must persevere -- and you must have fortitude. That is, you must have the courage to undertake something that came to you by default and for which you were not prepared.

Please email 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 . . .

"Courage (fortitude) and perseverance have a magical talisman

before which difficulties and obstacles vanish into thin air."

John Quincy Adams (1767-1848)


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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