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Posted: February 03, 2005

Spousal Caregiving

In Caregiving, It?s Pray, Hope -- and Don?t Worry!

Bill Andrew

The importance of prayer, for both spouse and spousal caregiver, cannot be over-estimated. In my opinion, prayer is the foundation for all successful quality spousal caregiving. As a matter of fact, it is the foundation for all successful quality caregiving.

Without prayer, the caregiver will not be able to provide a high level of quality care for their loved one. Regardless of your religious affiliation or your belief in God, or a Higher Power by another name, prayer is an integral component of human life and natural law. As discussed in previous columns, prayer is the foundation for our love of God and the love for our spouse.

Prayer is perhaps the oldest and most basic form of mind-body medicine. Duke University researchers have found that religious observance is associated with lower incidences of illness and hospitalization. Research at Harvard University suggests that the so-called "relaxation response," resulting from research of Dr. Herbert Benson, can help counter the effects of chronic stress and can be induced by prayer. Many other research studies have documented the beneficial aspects of prayer to provide a stress management capability for all caregivers -- especially spousal caregivers.

You can elicit the "relaxation response" through meditation by choosing a short phrase or prayer (also known as a mantra) that is rooted in your personal belief system. Prayers such as "the Lord is my Shepherd," "Jesus, help me," "Jesus, I trust in You," and "Jesus, I love You" can be used effectively.

Sit quietly in a comfortable position and close your eyes. Relax your muscles, progressing from your feet to your calves, thighs, abdomen, shoulders, neck, and head. Breathe in slowly and naturally. As you exhale, say your prayer silently to yourself. Don?t be concerned when other thoughts come to mind. Just acknowledge them and return calmly to your prayer. Ideally, continue for 10-20 minutes. However, even five minutes of deep relaxation can leave you calm and refreshed.

In fact, say the selected prayer anytime during the day when you feel the stress of caregiving becoming overwhelming. You will be surprised at how fast you get a response and how fast God answers your prayers.

While prayer is clearly not a substitute for medications or proper nutrition, such mind-body techniques can improve almost anyone's quality of life. Prayer may not directly cure cancer -- although miracles are known to happen. However, by alleviating the fear and by softening the side effects of treatment, prayer leaves many patients feeling less victimized.

As little as 10 minutes of repetitive prayer each day has been shown to reduce stress and the potential for stress-related problems. Several studies suggest that the consistent practice of prayer is more important than duration -- that is, daily prayer for a short time is more beneficial than praying all day every day.

People of all faiths, and many of little faith, turn to prayer to bring about a cure or perhaps just to help along the healing process or occasions of stress. The practice of praying for others may be as old as humanity itself and has been credited with countless miracles. But can science prove that it works? Since the mid-1960s, there has been a small but steady stream of studies of the medical effectiveness of intercessory prayer -- supplication to God offered on behalf of others. For the most part, researchers have conducted these studies as though they are doubtful about the outcomes. But often they are surprised at the outcomes.

As a 24/7 spousal caregiver, I am personally a firm believer in the power of prayer. While I do pray in a formal manner at various times of the day, by myself and with Carol, I often feel that my whole day is a prayer. In fact, at this point in the progression of Carol's Alzheimer's disease, my whole life is a prayer -- a prayer for Carol, a prayer that I will succeed in delivering quality care for Carol, and a prayer that I will be able to continue to maintain my own personal health.

Saint Pio of Pietrelcina (sometimes better known as Padre Pio) said it all when he said, "Pray, hope, and don't worry! Worry is useless. God is merciful and will hear your prayer. Prayer is the best weapon we have; it is the key to God's heart. You must speak to Jesus not only with your lips but with your heart. In fact, on certain occasions, you should speak to Him only with your heart."

Prayer is the best weapon that we spousal caregivers possess. It is the key to open the heart of God. You must always humble yourself lovingly before God and before men because God speaks only to those who are truly humble -- and He enriches them with His gifts. And every day, when your heart especially feels the loneliness of life as a spousal caregiver, pray!

_____

WORDS TO CARE BY?

"Pray, hope, and don't worry!"

(Saint Pio of Pietrelcina: Padre Pio)


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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© 2005 Pederson Publishing, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Commercial use, redistribution or other forms of reuse of this information is strictly prohibited without the prior written permission of Pederson Publishing.

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