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Posted: September 08, 2005

Spousal Caregiving

A 'Labor Day' Thought for Spousal Caregivers

Bill Andrew

I started working on the very first column for this Spousal Caregiving series on Labor Day 2004, and I thought that Labor Day 2005 would be a good time to reflect on what has transpired over the past year. That first column was posted on November 4, 2004, with a title of My Labor of Love! As a 24/7 caregiver for my spouse of 54 years, Carol, I can say without reservation that this is truly a "labor of love."

Let’s also reflect for a moment on the history of Labor Day and how it relates to caregiving.

Labor Day, the first Monday of September, has its genesis in the labor movement and was initially dedicated to the social and economic achievements of the American worker. It was intended as a national tribute to the contributions that workers had made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country. The U.S. Congress declared it a legal holiday in 1894.

Labor Day differs in every way from the other legal holidays in our country. It is not dedicated to any religious, calendar, patriotic, person, or any other similar reason. It is totally devoted to the American worker. However, it has now turned out to be a long weekend to end the summer and a day on which politicians tend to get wordy. Most of the parades, band concerts, and picnics of our youth are gone and it is "just another long weekend" to have fun with the family.

Now, just how does Labor Day relate to caregiving -- especially spousal caregiving? As a spousal caregiver, you "labor" long and hard each day to provide quality care for your spouse. Some of you provide this labor by visiting with your loved one each day in a nursing facility. And some of you actually provide onsite care and support for your loved one in a nursing facility. Others of you, like myself, provide 24/7 onsite care and support for your loved one in the confines of your home.

If someone tells you that your "labor of love" is not a really tough job, just let them know what you do each and every day for your loved one -- toileting, bathing, diaper changes, daily laundry, dressing, feeding and drinking, medications, and the many other "activities of daily living" required to support your loved one. And then still have time to take care of everything else that you must do each and every day. If this isn't "labor" in the truest sense of the word, I don't know what is

Consider the following:

• There are some 45 million family elder-caregivers in the United States.

• The value of the care provided by unpaid family caregivers is almost $260 billion per year.

• Over 30 billion hours per year of unpaid caregiving are provided by family caregivers such as you and me.

• Over 80% of all family caregiving is provided in the home of the care-recipient.

• Over 60% of all family caregivers have depression which suppresses their immune systems which, in turn, causes more ongoing stress.

• Over 35% of all family caregivers say that their caregiving job causes personal stress of a "4" or "5" on a stress scale where "5" is "very stressful".

• Over 65% of older spousal family caregivers without a support system have a higher mortality rate (they die sooner) -- indicating the essential need for an ongoing support system.

• In Florida, where I live, 50% of family caregivers care for a spouse (that includes me).

The above was derived from various official sources including AARP, National Alliance for Caregiving, National Family Caregivers Association, and Department of Elder Affairs in Florida.

I don't know about you, but I think those are some pretty impressive numbers. And those numbers will increase over the next several years as our population ages and the "baby boomers" start to become care-recipients and caregivers.

Perhaps we ought to petition the U.S. Congress to establish a "Family Caregiver Day" as a national tribute to the contributions that family caregivers are making to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country. This day would be dedicated to the social and economic achievements of the American family caregiver. That includes you and me. What do you think?

On this Labor Day 2005, I want to reaffirm "my labor of love" which I committed to my spouse, Carol, more than 54 years ago in our wedding vows. I also want to let the world know that there really is such a thing as "the joy of caregiving" -- something many non-caregivers cannot appreciate.

Have you reaffirmed your personal "labor of love" to your spouse? I did!

WORDS TO CARE BY . . .

"Whatever your task, work heartily, as serving the Lord and not men;

knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward; you are serving the Lord, Jesus Christ."

(Colossians 3:23-24)


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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