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Posted: November 18, 2004

Spousal Caregiving

The Vow: A Love Story

Bill AndrewIt was on a beautiful spring evening in May 1949 that this love story begins. My friends and I, veterans who were attending Marquette University, went to a dance in Manitowoc, Wisconsin, my hometown, where I met Carol, the woman of my dreams! I asked Carol to dance with me, and we danced all night ? literally!

From then on, I spent many weekends away from school so Carol and I could be together more often. It was love at first sight ? or, perhaps, ?love at first dance.?

On March 24, 1951, a romantic moonlit night on the shores of beautiful Lake Michigan, I asked Carol if she would marry me. Without hesitation, she said, ?Yes!?  We vowed in Holy Matrimony ?to have and to hold, in sickness and in health, ?til death do us part? on August 22, 1951, at St. Boniface Catholic Church in Manitowoc. After a wonderful honeymoon trip to Niagara Falls, we settled into the lives of a university student and working woman in Milwaukee.

University graduation came in June 1952, and in July 1952 God presented us with a beautiful baby boy. We moved back to our hometown of Manitowoc and proceeded to settle down. In April 1954, God again presented us with another beautiful baby boy. Our lives were going along just fine with the typical problems of raising a family. Subsequently, we moved to Florida in November 1960 and were very happy doing what we were doing. Our marriage was strong and healthy, despite the usual ?bumps in the road? that we all experience. Our boys had grown up and were getting on with their own lives. The wedding vows that we made in 1951 were critical to our well-being and to the success of our marriage -- this was a ?lifetime commitment!?

And then came September 1994.

Carol became lost driving to a routine appointment in another city within 20 miles of our home, and I had to rescue her. This was the first indication I had that something was not right, and just at the time we thought we were ready for the ?golden years? of retirement. At first, we did nothing different from what we had been doing.

Then we went to California for a medical evaluation and were told that Carol had memory loss but no specific cause. Subsequently, our local family physician indicated that it looked like a dementia. Further tests and evaluation by a neurologist in early 1997 resulted in an initial ?possible? Alzheimer's disease diagnosis. In early 1999, this diagnosis was confirmed, but as ?probable? Alzheimer's, as a result of more extensive testing at a university-based world-class memory disorder clinic in Tampa.

Over the past six years, the disease has progressed slowly but surely to the point where Carol can no longer stand by herself, feed herself, dress herself, toilet herself, or bathe herself -- to the point where she is totally dependent upon me for everything.

I am her 36-hour-day caregiver, and many days it really does feel like 36 hours! Despite the odds, we did celebrate our Golden Wedding Anniversary in August 2001, a significant achievement in which she participated to the best of her limited ability.

And that brings us to my ?Golden Commitment ? to Carol, the commitment I made to Carol, before God, over 53 years ago ? the VOW!

The love 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 whole life. This commitment of Agape love is without remorse, it is my ?Golden Commitment? to Carol.

Carol is the love of my life: my friend, my lover, my wife, the mother of our children. As you will see in reading my column in the weeks ahead, my VOW is my ?Golden Commitment ? to provide 36-hour-day tender loving care for Carol as long as it is required and as long as I am able.

WORDS TO CARE BY?

" ?my secret (of being a successful caregiver) is quite simple ? I PRAY!"

( Mother Teresa of Calcutta )


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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