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Posted: June 30, 2005

Spousal Caregiving

'Where Are We Going, Mommy?'

Bill Andrew

As spousal caregivers, we are constantly concerned about the well-being of our respective spouses.  Sometimes it is difficult to put everything into perspective on a daily basis, and we need inspirational stories and messages to help us to get over the rough spots.  LeAnn Thieman and her co-authors have done just that in their popular book Chicken Soup for the Caregiver's Soul. 

LeAnn shared spousal caregiving stories with us in two previous columns -- A Can't-Miss Recipe for Caregiver's Chicken Soup and Ridding the Bedroom of Cancer's 'Elephant' .  The "good medicine" inherent in chicken soup, as documented in many studies, will help support all caregivers through the stories in this must-read book.  I hope that the occasional stories that LeAnn shares with us, both in the book and 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. 

This third story that LeAnn will share with us can be found on page 71 of Chicken Soup for the Caregiver's Soul.  As usual, LeAnn provides us with her personal thought-provoking insight into this story -- "Sometimes, on our toughest days as caregivers, we wonder 'What is the purpose of all this?  Does the rest of the world know, or even care, about what I am going through?  What good can come from all this stress and strain?'  Then we remember the lessons we learn that we are silently sharing -- we are teaching our families and the world about committed, true love."

__________

The Travelers

"Patience is the art of hoping."

                                                -- Vauvenargues 

I watched as she led him by the hand to the bathroom at the airport terminal.  Travelers surrounded them, rushing past; and although he seemed a little bewildered, he seemed secure as long as his hand was in hers. 

Returning to their seats at the gate, she combed his hair and zipped his jacket.  He fidgeted and asked, "Where are we going, Mommy? What time is it? When will we get to ride our plane?" 

I marveled at the woman's patience and love. I watched her take him by the hand when they were finally allowed to pre-board. 

Upon finding my seat, I discovered that the three of us would be together. I squeezed past the two of them to my window seat then told him how handsome he looked in his new coat. He smiled. She helped take off his jacket and buckle his seatbelt.  He said that he had to go to the bathroom again, and she assured him that he could last until the end of the flight. (I quietly hoped she was right.) 

As the jet engines started, he became frightened and reached for her hand.  She explained what was going on and began talking to him about their trip.  He was confused about the different relatives they would be seeing, but she patiently repeated who was who until he seemed to understand. 

He asked many more questions about the time, what day it was, how much longer until they got there...and she lovingly held his hand and gave him her full attention. 

We introduced ourselves and shared the usual things all mothers like to share with one another.  I learned she had four children and was on her way to visit one of them. 

The hour passed quickly, and soon we were preparing to land.  He became frightened again, and she stroked his arm, reassuringly.  He said, "I love you, Mom," and she smiled and hugged him. "I love you, too, Honey." 

They got off the plane before I did, the mother never realizing how deeply she had touched me.  I said a quiet little prayer for this remarkable woman and for myself -- that I would have enough love and strength to meet whatever challenges came my way, as this extraordinary mother clearly had. 

When I last saw them, she was still holding his hand and leading her husband of 44 years to the baggage claim area. 

"Where we going, Mommy?"

-- Bobbie Wilkinson

__________

(The Travelers 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.  Carol and I have always held hands -- from our dating days right up to this very moment.  It gave us both comfort and security then -- and it still does.  Our last flight together was about six years ago when we visited family in Connecticut and Wisconsin.  Carol's anxiety then was very much like the husband's in the story above.  People often look at me strangely as I talk to Carol to comfort her -- it is almost as if I am talking to myself and they think that strange.  Oh well, so much for their insight into the disease process known as Alzheimer's. 

If you can relate to this story and would like to share your personal experience, I would love to hear from you at ASKBill@caregivershome.com. 

WORDS TO CARE BY --

"Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength;

while loving someone deeply gives you courage."

Lao-tzu (604-531 BC)


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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