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Posted: May 19, 2005

Spousal Caregiving

Do You Want to Become a Better Spousal Caregiver?

Bill Andrew

Have you ever thought about how you could become a better caregiver for your spouse?  I know that I have -- and I constantly look for ways to improve the manner in which I provide care for my spouse, Carol.  The May 8 issue of USA WEEKEND carried an article by Tedd Mitchell, M.D., in the HealthSmart article entitled Be a Better Caregiver, and I wanted to share his insights with you. 

 Mitchell's tips can help you deal with the stress that comes with being a 24/7 caregiver for your spouse.  This is something you, as a spousal caregiver, face each and every day since the relationship with your spouse changes -- and you become your spouse's caregiver by default.  The stress that results from your caregiving activities and the changes in your relationship with your spouse can be rough on you physically, emotionally, and financially.  Here are  Mitchell's tips on becoming a better caregiver in an easy-to-memorize format.

Consider needs.  This includes the needs of both your spouse and yourself.  If you have the ability to take care of your spouse in your own home, that is the preferred location, as indicated by a recent AARP study.  More than 80% of care recipients are home-based.  On the other hand, consider a skilled nursing facility or assisted living facility if your work schedule or your loved one's illness requires this type of care.

Accept help.  Getting others to handle simple tasks such as housework or yard work relieves the caregiver of this burden.  Many times, you will have to ask for this help from friends, family members, church members, and others who may want to help but don't know what to do.  As a spousal caregiver, you will also benefit from respite care that will allow you some personal time for your self or for taking care of errands.  Various agencies, associations, and groups can provide resource information.

Realize limits.  As a spousal caregiver, you must realize your personal caregiving limits. Tthis is where you must really be honest with yourself.  Do you have the physical, emotional, and spiritual strength to be the 24/7 caregiver that you may eventually become for your spouse?  Be realistic about your capacity to handle a chronically ill spouse in your home.  Of course, there are also limitations in long-term care facilities as well.  While the expertise and ability to address your spouse's medical needs may be met, the "tender loving care" aspect may be disappointing or not there at all.

Expect setbacks.  According to  Mitchell, there is a saying in medicine: Bad things happen to sick people.  It is important to understand that chronically ill spouses are on a health roller coaster.  "Ups" and "downs" are to be expected, even though the care that you provide is outstanding.  That is the nature of many diseases -- it is also human nature.

Get moving.  Exercise is one of the best stress management tools available to spousal caregivers.  Make it a priority for your daily routine -- even if you only take a short walk now and then throughout the day when your spouse is resting.

Imitate.  It is important that you imitate the experts in how care is provided, whether in your home or in a facility.  Feeding, bathing, dressing, toileting, and other activities of daily living for someone who can not help you is an art form.  Learn how the experts do it -- helpful tips from those who have done it before can make your routine much easier and fulfilling.

Vacation.  It is important that you disengage from day-to-day spousal care on occasion.  You need a break now and then.  While you may not be able to go on a trip for an extended period of time -- perhaps you don't think you can take the time -- you can take a day or two here and there to recharge your batteries.  This is a critical component of any stress management protocol.

Eat right.  As a spousal caregiver, you may have a tendency to neglect yourself and your needs -- after all, you have the best interests of your spouse at heart.  However, you do need adequate energy for each day's caregiving activity, and that means good nutrition.  Giving your body what it needs during this stressful time is critical.  I have personally benefited by incorporating a glyconutritional protocol into my daily diet.  Check out www.wfandrew.myglycostore.com if you'd like more information.

Rest.  It is critical that you are adequately rested each and every day that you are a spousal caregiver.  Many caregivers make the mistake of not getting enough sleep. As a result, the care they provide for their spouse could be compromised.  If you are not adequately rested, how can you take care of your spouse as well as you would like to?

 Mitchell's tips for becoming a better CAREGIVER are time-tested from someone who knows.  He is the medical director of the wellness program at the renowned Cooper Clinic, in Dallas, Texas, and a contributing editor for USA WEEKEND magazine.

How many of his tips have you experienced?  I can honestly say that I have personally realized each one to some degree.  As you are aware, much of what we spousal caregivers do each day for our spouses is learned "on the job."  Hopefully, this column will help you, and perhaps you would like to share your personal spousal caregiving experiences.  If so, drop me a line at ASKBill@caregivershome.com.  May God bless you and your spouse.

WORDS TO CARE BY. . .

"Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved,

heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience."

(Colossians 3:12)


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.
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