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Posted: November 11, 2004

Spousal Caregiving

What Is True Love?

Bill AndrewIn my previous column, I told you that being a 24-hour-per-day, 7-day-per-week (24/7) caregiver for a loved one with late-stage Alzheimer's disease is a true Labor of Love. I also told you that my loved one is my wife, Carol, to whom I vowed before God over 53 years ago "to have and to hold, in sickness and in health, ?til death do us part."

You may also recall that I made a ?Golden Commitment? three years ago that I am keeping on a daily basis, before Carol and before God, to provide quality care for Carol in our own home.

What I did not tell you is that this caregiving commitment often makes each and every day feel and seem like a 36-hour-day!

How can I, or any other spousal caregiver, continue to provide quality care for their loved one if each day feels like a 36-hour-day? Well, for starters, there must be "true love" for, and "total commitment" to, your loved one, regardless of the disease. But, what is "true love" and what is "total commitment?"

The Gospel according to John (15:13) says it all about true love: ?No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for those whom one loves (for one's friends).? This statement provides the description of ?Agape? (Greek: agapao) love -- the third and highest type of love. ?Eros? is the Greek word for physical love and attraction (?love at first sight?) and is directed toward self-realization and pleasure. The Greek ?Phileo? love, in contrast, seeks the interest and welfare of others. It is this type of love that is necessary to make a good marriage work or to keep a friendship strong. Phileo love focuses on what two people agree upon, not the differences.

Agape love is the all-absorbing love that completely dominates one's life. It is used exclusively in the Bible and classical Greek literature to express the Divine Love of God. It transcends the self-realization of Eros love and the mutual realization of Phileo love. In fact, it is the key ingredient that solidifies both sexual (Eros) and friendship (Phileo) love. Agape love will sacrifice itself for others because it is not interested in self-preservation. It will deny itself for the benefit of others. When God sent his Son, Jesus Christ, into the world to die for sinners, He was demonstrating the ultimate Agape love ? ?to lay down One's life for those whom One loves.?

This phrase accurately describes the role of the 36-hour-day caregiver. The caregiver must literally support all of the needs of the loved one while continuing to provide for their own personal needs. This requires ?true love? -- Agape love! While not literally ?laying down one's life,? it often feels like it because of the ongoing daily demands of the patient care activity. The love that I have for Carol can best be described as Agape love. It requires total denial of my own needs to meet Carol 's needs and it completely dominates my life. This demonstration of love is without remorse, it is my Golden Commitment to Carol .

Love is the greatest gift one person can give another. Faith in action is love. Love in action is service. Sservice in action is ?laying down one's life for those one loves.? Prayer is an integral part of our daily routine, and it is the foundation for the love that I have for Carol. This is faith in action, love in action, and service in action. Prayer gives me the patience to provide 36-hour-day care for Carol. Faith, love, and service -- this is my Golden Commitment, my "total commitment" to Carol .

Within the context of Agape love as defined here, what is the experience of a 36-hour-day caregiver for his spouse who is afflicted with Alzheimer's disease? My weekly columns will be written from the perspective of such a caregiver (me) caring for the loved one (Carol) within the confines of their home. I am certain that other caregivers have similar experiences.

However, what I will describe represents a fairly accurate cross-section of the daily activity incurred by every spousal caregiver. It also is my personal experience as I provide ?tender loving care? for my wife of more than 53 years and as well as my Golden Commitment to continue to provide that ?tender loving care? as long as it is required. Please note that frequent prayer is the key to our mutual success. Without prayer, faith, hope, and love, I am not sure that I could continue to provide quality 36-hour-day care for Carol .

I dedicate this to Carol, with "true love" and "total commitment!"

WORDS TO CARE BY?

"?God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance?"

(2 Corinthians 9:8)


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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