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Posted: March 10, 2005

Spousal Caregiving

A Can't-Miss Recipe for Caregiver's Chicken Soup

Bill Andrew

What does a recipe for chicken soup have to do with spousal caregiving? My answer: everything! Chicken soup is most everyone's favorite home recipe medication for whatever ails you. And when it comes to caregiving, it is my privilege to introduce you to LeAnn Thieman, co-author of Chicken Soup for the Caregiver's Soul. LeAnn has the "chicken soup" recipe for you as a spousal caregiver.

I met LeAnn several years ago as she was embarking on the Caregiver's Soul Chicken Soup book. Subsequently, I was listed in the acknowledgements section of the published book as "Bill Andrew, who, while lovingly caring for Carol, served not only as an advisor but as a prayer warrior and true inspiration." In fact, I was one of the reviewers who helped select the almost 100 stories that were published. The authors have dedicated this book "to caregivers, who, by their benevolent acts of kindness, single-handedly ease the suffering of the world.Does that describe you?

More than 80 million Chicken Soup books have been published and sold. However, LeAnn has a "special feeling" for the Caregiver's Soul book and believes that it "fills the gap" that occurs in many caregiver lives. She has agreed to share some of the more than 1,200 caregiver stories that were submitted for review and publication -- a third of which were focused on spousal caregiving. The unconditional love expressed in these spousal-related stories really stood out in LeAnn's mind -- "that love which comes only from the heart!" You can learn more about LeAnn Thieman and how she spreads the "caregiver word" to others on her website.

I will periodically feature one of those stories along with LeAnn's comments and her insight into the moral of the story. I also will share my personal caregiving experience as it relates to a story. Chicken soup has been prescribed for hundreds of years to relieve the symptoms of the common cold and other ailments. Scientists have documented that it contains ingredients that are "good medicine" for our bodies.

LeAnn and her co-authors have brought that "good medicine" to support all caregivers and help them carry out their vital roles. The stories in the book, and the stories we will share with you in this column, will lift your spirits, nourish your soul, and remind you that others understand what you are going through as a spousal caregiver.

The first story LeAnn shares with us can be found on page 46 of Chicken Soup for the Caregiver's Soul. LeAnn provides this thought provoking insight into this story -- "Too often, our loved one's disease process robs them of their ability to communicate. Or does it?"


Love's Own Language

Love is never lost. If not reciprocated it will flow back and soften and purify the heart.

-- Washington Irving

It had been a long, tiring day caring for my husband who suffered from Alzheimer's disease, and when he spit the pill out, I was upset and said in an unkind voice, "Why did you do that? 

I got down on the floor to look for the pill and heard him softly say, "But that's what you told me to do, isn't it?"

I began to cry. How could I have been so cross with him when he had done exactly what he understood me to say? The doctor had told me that he might begin processing language in reverse; that his "yes" could be "no" and a "no" could be "yes." Obviously, when I asked him to swallow the pill he had understood me to say just the opposite.

When he saw me crying, he reached out to me. "Don't cry. Come here," which caused me to cry even harder. Moving over by his wheelchair, I put my head on his knee and he patted my shoulder.

Although he didn't understand my asking him to swallow the pill, he did understand my distress and pain and in spite of all the confusion and damage the disease had done to his mind, his love caused him to reach out to comfort me.

Eventually the disease left him unable to speak except for an occasional word here and there. And even when he could not express in words what he was thinking, in his own way he still communicated. When I did something to make him more comfortable, he would look at me with a soft expression in his eyes, acknowledging what I had done. When I straightened the bedclothes or changed his gown, he would take hold of my hand and caress it.

These gestures spoke to me as eloquently as if he had spoken out loud, proving where there is love, there will never be an insurmountable language barrier.

Dorothy Snyder

Love's Own Language is reprinted herein by written permission of Chicken Soup for the Caregiver's Soul. To learn more about this book, contact the co-author, LeAnn Thieman, professional speaker, author and nurse at her website.


As the 24/7 caregiver for my spouse, Carol, who has late-stage Alzheimer's disease, I can definitely relate to this story. Even in the later stages of the disease progression, Carol still can articulate her love and appreciation for things that I do for her  -- by her "thank you's," by her eye expressions, by her body language, by her kisses on my arm or hand, by holding my hand, etc.

Watch for additional heart-warming and inspirational stories in future Spousal Caregiving columns. I can assure you that you will be moved by the love expressed therein and that the "chicken soup" will do you lots of good as it did for me when I first reviewed the stories submitted for publication. May God continue to bless you and your loved one.


"Whatever you do, do from the heart"
(Colossians 3:20)

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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© 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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