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Posted: June 02, 2005

Spousal Caregiving

The 'One-Day-at-a-Time' Caregiver Program

Bill Andrew

Many of us became spousal caregivers by default, meaning we were not prepared for this event in our lives but we willingly tackled the job because we love our spouse and because we honor and value our wedding vows. Sometimes, this event takes place without warning -- as with cancer, an accident, a heart attack, or a stroke. Other times, the caregiving creeps up on you as with the dementias -- especially Alzheimer's disease (as has happened in my case with my wife, Carol).

Regardless of how you became a spousal caregiver, I would be willing to bet that it included many elements of surprise for you as you discovered what you could do and how you could do it. Undoubtedly, there were many emotionally demanding moments when you wondered whether you could continue to do what you what you were doing for your spouse. Like me, I bet that you went onto automatic pilot and started to do -- and do -- and do! You never really stopped to think about what had happened and really didn't devise a care plan taking into account the health and well-being of both your spouse and yourself.

As a spousal caregiver, do you often feel overwhelmed at the end of each day? In fact, do you often feel overwhelmed during the day? Does your patience tend to wear thin as the day progresses? Are you often frustrated because your caregiving duties tend to pile up and important things do not get done as they should have been like paying bills, shopping, yard work, house work, etc.? Do these problems tend to compromise the quality of care that you want to provide for your spouse?

If so, what should you do?

Somewhere along the way, you should stop, take a deep breath, and try to gain some control over the situation -- and not let the situation control you. It should be obvious that you can not control everything that happens to you and your spouse. However, you do have the power to make active and informed choices about how you are going to deal with the many overwhelming and frustrating caregiving circumstances in your life.  

What I have personally done is to develop and implement a "one-day-at-a-time" caregiver program. If it works for me, perhaps it will work for you. The source of my daily inspiration is: 

"This is the day the Lord has made;
Let us rejoice and be glad!"

(Psalm 118:24)

Think about it -- each day that you wake up and your spouse is still with you, that becomes a day for you to demonstrate your commitment to your spouse through your love, your "works of mercy," your tolerance, your patience, and your prayers.

As a believer, you know that God acts in mysterious ways. There are many incidences of "one-day-at-a-time" events in both the Old and New Testaments. For example, when the Hebrews were wandering in the desert, God provided "manna from Heaven" for food -- but only "one-day-at-a time!" (Numbers 11:9). Also, the Lord's Prayer says "give us this day, our daily bread" (Matthew 6:11).

Living one-day-at-a-time is a very important component of my caregiving philosophy for Carol. This philosophy of life should also be especially important when you are the caregiver for your spouse. When I wake up in the morning and Carol is either still sound asleep or trying to talk to me, I know that God has provided me with another opportunity to prove my love for her -- and for Him. I thank God for giving Carol to me for another day. And I try my best to make the most of that day by appropriate planning for the caregiving requirements for that day. At night, I thank God for that day and resolve that the next day will be as good -- or better -- than today.

While the one-day-at-a-time caregiving philosophy is a good practice for your spouse, it is also good practice for you as the caregiver. First of all, you only have to deal with today's caregiving requirements -- and that will reduce the stress that can inhibit quality caregiving. Secondly, while you may have concerns about tomorrow and the days thereafter, those may or may not be issues when that day arrives.

Someone once said, "Today is the first day of the rest of your life!" St.Pio of Pietrelcina said, "Pray, hope, and don't worry!" Both of those quotations sound like good advice and support the caregiving philosophy of one-day-at-a-time! Try it -- you might like it!

If you would like to share your spousal caregiving experiences with other readers of this column, please e-mail me at ASKBill@caregivershome.com. You can also ask any questions that concern you -- but remember, I can only share my personal experiences with you and can not provide any advice that would require specific licensure.

WORDS TO CARE BY. . .

"I was hard pressed and falling,
but the Lord came to my help!"

(Psalm 118:13)


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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