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Posted: August 18, 2005

Spousal Caregiving

Is Your Caregiving 'Playing Field' Level?

Bill Andrew

Are you and your spouse on a level "playing field" along your journey as caregiver and care-recipient?

Once again, I want to share with you another "bowl of caregiver's chicken soup" direct from the classic book Chicken Soup for the Caregiver's Soul. This story puts everything that we do as caregivers into perspective -- it also provides us with an inspiration to help us over the rough spots that we run into on a daily basis. LeAnn Thieman and her co-authors have done just that in this story with a touch of humor.

LeAnn shared spousal caregiving stories with us in three previous columns -- A Can't-Miss Recipe for Caregiver's Chicken Soup, Ridding the Bedroom of Cancer's 'Elephant', and Where Are We Going, Mommy? The "good medicine" inherent in chicken soup, as documented in many studies, helps to 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.

The fourth story that LeAnn would like to share with us can be found on page 53 of Chicken Soup for the Caregiver's Soul. LeAnn offers this personal thought-provoking insight into this story -- "Sometimes, a sense of humor is the only way to cope -- and heal." I might add that humor is essential to our survival as spousal caregivers -- at least that is my personal experience. I intend to write a special column in the future on the value of humor in spousal caregiving.


Level the Playing Field

"Next to a good soul-stirring prayer, is a good laugh."

Samuel Mutchmore

My husband Terry had performed the 6:00 a.m. and midnight wet-to-dry dressings on my abdomen and chest for several months. I battled post-operative gangrene following mastectomies and reconstruction six months earlier. My eight-day hospital stay and single surgery had turned into four surgeries so far, three months in the hospital, and then a nursing home because of the aggressive infections and related complications. Now visiting nurses came to our home twice each day while Terry was at work.

I knew I had not been a picnic to live with. The pain and immobility kept me housebound and frustrated. I'm sure he wondered why he pulled so many strings to get me out of the nursing home early.

One night we had an argument. It was not over anything significant, but it was the first since the surgeries. We hadn't made up yet, but it was bedtime. However, before bed he still had the complicated dressing changes to complete. Terry had no medical training, but the nurses had taught him how to clean and dress the wounds that covered my front from hip to armpit.

Terry helped me recline on my side of our bed. I sensed the tension in the air. I still felt hurt from our disagreement. I didn’t know how he felt because he is quiet when upset. That night was no different.

I looked up at him and said, "This isn't fair. I feel too vulnerable here with nothing on while you take care of my wounds when you are still mad at me."

He walked away. A few minutes he returned and stood, still silent with a half-smile on his face. He was stark naked.

"Terry, what are you doing?" I shrieked with laughter.

"Just leveling the playing filed," he smirked -- then tenderly changed my dressing.

--Linda S. Lee


(Level the Playing Field is reprinted 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.)

One of the most important pointers that I learned early on in my spousal caregiver career was the value of humor. This is especially important when your spouse has a dementia, such as Alzheimer's disease, with which my wife, Carol, is afflicted.

I was told that I should "humor" Carol when she said and did things that were "off the wall" as far as her normal self was concerned -- never argue, always "humor." That is, accept what was said or done and move on. I was also told to use humor by "laughing at the world" and hope that the world laughs with me. To this day, Carol and I have a good laugh on occasion -- this despite her late-stage Alzheimer's disease.

Did you and your spouse have a good laugh today?

If you would like to share your spousal caregiving experiences with other readers of this column, please e-mail me at 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.


"Humor is the great thing, the saving thing.

The minute it crops up, all of our irritation and resentments

slip away and a sunny spirit takes their place."

Mark Twain (1835-1910)



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

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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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