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Posted: September 15, 2005

Spousal Caregiving

Dealing with Stress, Caregiver-Style

Bill Andrew

How have you dealt with the stress of being a spousal caregiver? How well are you managing the stress in your life? How do you know that you are suffering from stress? Have you taken the "stress test" we published in A Spousal Caregiver's Self-Assessment on Stress?

Janet did -- and she discovered that she was experiencing a very high level of stress. She gave me permission to use her experience in the hope it will help other spousal caregivers. Her husband suffers from post traumatic stress syndrome which is ongoing. He has had over 20 years of nightmares, sometimes screaming ones, sometimes 3-5 times a day. And she is the lone caregiver for her husband.

Sounds like a perfect recipe for stress, doesn’t it?


Dear Bill:

Hello. I took your test and found that I am experiencing a high level of stress! My husband recently had reconstructive surgery on his foot that was damaged when he stepped on a land mine while serving in Vietnam more than 30 years ago. After many years of discouraging him from having the foot amputated, we finally found a doctor who formed a team at the local Veteran's Affairs hospital to do the operation.

My stress levels started to escalate when my husband came home in a wheelchair and I became his resident caregiver. I had to change his dressings as required, helped him maneuver the wheelchair around the house, and assist with his hygiene. I had never been so driven in all my life or done so many things all at the same time -- with no help whatsoever.

I found the following ways to cope with my stress:

• Talking with my neighbors -- complaining, really

• Asking for prayers from others

• Taking our dogs out for daily walks

• Grooming and playing with the dogs

• Keeping a time schedule for different tasks and not worrying when it's a bit off-schedule

• Keeping a calendar with all of our appointments

• Taking the time to nap, relax, and/or read -- at least, to put my legs up since my legs and feet hurt so bad from all of the leg work

• Using a walkie/talkie to communicate with my husband when we were in separate rooms or I am out with the dogs

• Taking prescriptions on time and using over-the-counter medications when necessary for pain or headaches

• Eating home-cooked dinners and using frozen meals occasionally

• Vocalizing when I am tired or need a break

• Going to bed at a regular time; taking the time to prepare beforehand

• Doing a little gardening when I can -- not much, not much time

• Working a little on my sewing -- very little nowadays

• Control what I can and not worry so much about what I can't

• Taking things one day at a time, like the saying goes.

Today, the dogs and I used the pool and, for the first time, I used one of those floating chairs! Instead of being tired, I had fun which actually energized me for the caregiving tasks ahead.

Thanks for the kind words and wishes -- I wish the same for you and yours.

-- Janet R., Largo, Florida


WOW! Janet really did take the test and did something about the stress that was indicated. Congratulations, Janet! Stress reduction is very important for spousal caregivers. In fact, it is important for every caregiver. Janet sounds like a lady who made up her mind to reduce her stress levels in many different and interesting ways. And she did.

How about you? Have you taken the "stress test" as developed by the American Medical Association? This "Caregiver Self-Assessment Questionnaire" can be accessedl or by clicking on this link to my May 5, 2005, column in the Spousal Caregiving archives as described above. I would encourage you to do so and let me know how you did. Perhaps you can achieve results like Janet and I did.


"No one is useless in this world

who lightens the burdens of another."

Charles Dickens (1812-70)

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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