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Posted: August 11, 2005

Spousal Caregiving

Is 'I' the First Letter in Your Caregiver Alphabet?

Bill Andrew

A friend of mine passed away a short time ago, and I recently had the opportunity to spend some time with his caregiver wife. The main topic of our discussion was "spousal love" -- the love that a husband and wife have for each other. Obviously, she misses him after almost 55 years of married life, and now she is alone -- alone with her memories. She referenced St. Paul's letter to the Corinthians (1 Cor 13:4-8, 13) as the foundation for their marital bliss.

And that got me to thinking about my relationship with my wife, Carol, for whom I am the 24/7 spousal caregiver and what this column is all about. Refer to my earlier column A Prescription for Caregiving from last December for background information on this column. Also, refer to my Heroic Virtue: A Platform for Caregiving column from last week.

There is an old saying . . . "love conquers all." In fact, many young couples have Bible readings at their weddings (perhaps you did) about the enduring power of love. I quote: "Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, it is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. . . ." (1 Cor 13:4-8). "So faith, hope, love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love." (1 Cor 13:13).

Have you ever thought about replacing the words "love" and "it" in the above saying with yourself -- with "I" and then the commitment. I did, and this is what I found:

• Love is patient. I am patient. Patience is the key to successful caregiving -- it is a virtue. If you are patient with your spouse, you can rest assured that your spouse will be well-cared for.

• Love is kind. I am kind. Another virtue, kindness implies that you must be gentle, considerate, and friendly in everything that you do for your spouse.

• It (love) is not jealous. I am not jealous. Jealousy is a vice -- not a virtue. One way is being jealous of your friends who are not carrying as heavy a cross as you are. You could also be jealous of the fact that your spouse is so demanding and that you don't have time for yourself.

• It (love) is not pompous (boastful). I am not pompous (boastful). Pompousness (boastfulness) is a vice -- not a virtue. You could boast about what a good job you are doing, but what does that gain you or your loved one?

• It (love) is not inflated (arrogant). I am not inflated (arrogant). Again, this is a vice -- not a virtue. If anything, you should exhibit the ultimate in humility which is the foundational virtue for caregiving.

• It (love) is not rude. I am not rude. Once again, this is a vice -- not a virtue. Perhaps it is tempting to be rude to your spouse when things do not go as planned. It is then that the virtues of forgiveness and compassion kick in as they should.

• It (love) does not seek its own interests (its own way). I do not seek my own interests (my own way). This vice is offset by the virtue of respectfulness -- we must respect the wishes and requirements of our spouse as well as the various aspects of spousal caregiving.

• It (love) is not quick-tempered (irritable). I am not quick-tempered (irritable). This vice is offset by the virtues of patience and compassion for our spouse.

• It (love) does not brood over injury (is not resentful). I do not brood over injury (am not resentful). This vice is offset by the virtues of forgiveness and kindness to our spouse.

• It (love) does not rejoice over wrongdoing (rejoice at wrong). I do not rejoice over wrongdoing (rejoice at wrong). Another vice that is offset by the virtues of forgiveness and trust in the Lord on behalf of our spouse.

• But (it/love) rejoices with the truth (rejoices in the right). I rejoice with the truth (in the right). It has been said that the "truth sets you free." With the "truth" of our spousal caregiving role defined for us, we can invoke the virtues of commitment, courage/fortitude, perseverance, discipline, diligence, and enthusiasm to help us to get through each and every day.

• It (love) bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. I bear all things; I believe all things; I hope all things; I endure all things. Your love for your spouse should provide you with the wherewithal to invoke the virtue of spousal love in anything and everything that you encounter as you provide care for your spouse.

• Love never fails (ends). I never fail and I have a never-ending love for my spouse. The virtues of commitment, perseverance, prayerfulness, faithfulness/fidelity, diligence, and excellence will provide assurance that I will never fail nor that my love for my spouse will ever end.

Overriding the above are the three theological virtues -- faith, hope, and love. If you have faith, you can "move mountains." If you have hope, anything is possible. If you have love, you have everything. You could paraphrase this as:

• I have faith in my ability to provide quality caregiving services for my spouse.

• I have hope that what I do for my spouse will facilitate his/her well-being.

• I have love for my spouse that knows no bounds or limitations on what I can do for my spouse.

Are you putting the "I" into your spousal caregiving? I am!

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 -- however, I can only share my personal experiences with you and can not provide any advice that would require specific licensure.

WORDS TO CARE BY . . .

"So faith, hope, and love remain, these three;

but the greatest of these is love."

(1 Cor 13:13)


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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