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Posted: November 03, 2005

Spousal Caregiving

Looking Back on a Year of Spousal Caregiving

Bill Andrew

On the occasion of the one-year anniversary of this caregiving column, I thought that it would be appropriate to review what has been provided to you -- the spousal caregiver -- and your reception of this column over the past year. Our first column, posted on November 4, 2004, was entitled My Labor of Love! That column provided background information on me, my spouse, and how I was going to approach writing this weekly column. It also provided a hint at my philosophy of spousal caregiving.

One year ago, we had just endured three hurricanes that passed within several miles of our home in Polk County, Florida. My wife of 54+ years, Carol, and I survived those storms with damage to the house, large oak trees, and the yard. Providing care for Carol during these events was a significant challenge but we survived with minor inconveniences by being prepared. We "dodged the bullet" several times during 2005 here in Central Florida -- however, other parts of Florida and the Gulf Coast were not so lucky! Our son and his family live in Ocean Springs, Mississippi, and they still are "camping out" two months after Hurricane Katrina!

Our columns over the past year have covered many varied topics that relate to the personal caregiving activities you may perform for your spouse. I share with you the results of my efforts on behalf of my spouse. I know what works for me and what doesn't -- of course, your personal situation will dictate what works for you and what doesn't. Some of you have shared your stories with me and those are heart-warming. Several of those stories have also been shared with readers of this column.

I have tried to personalize many of the columns so that they reflect issues and concerns that have faced Carol and I over the past 11 years of our "Alzheimer's journey." Perhaps the columns are redundant on occasion, but generally I try to find current issues and concerns from our personal situation, my reading, and the working relationships that I have with other folks who have a vested interest in family caregiving.

For example, the columns that are derived from my relationship with LeAnn Thieman, co-author of Chicken Soup for the Caregiver's Soul, reflect the caregiver-community-at-large across the United States. The stories that LeAnn shares with us are common to all spousal caregivers. They can lift your spirits, nourish your soul, and remind you that others understand what you are going through as a spousal caregiver. LeAnn's insights into family caregiving, as a result of reviewing over 1,000 stories submitted for publication, are very insightful and invaluable to the reader.

Other columns have been derived from physician and clinician friends and acquaintances. For example, the January 13, 2005, and January 20, 2005, columns were the result of discussions with a physician friend of mine who specializes in family practice and geriatrics. The October 27, 2005, column described his personal experience with caregivers of loved ones with a variety of diseases and preparations that should be made for disasters.

I hope to start a series of columns in this space on the value of humor in our caregiver lives in the very near future. Many research studies indicate that "laughter is the best medicine" and that both medical and emotional benefits can be derived from laughter. Scientists have found that laughter is a form of "internal jogging" that exercises the body and stimulates the release of beneficial brain neurotransmitters and hormones. Thus, a positive attitude and laughter can actually be "food" for your health as a spousal caregiver. My resource for this column will be an internationally recognized nurse humorist who specializes in stress management, patient service, and end-of-life issues.

To the long-term readers of this column, it should be apparent that I have a very strong faith commitment. It should also be apparent that I have a very strong marital commitment to Carol. I have tried to convey that commitment in various columns during the past year. Hopefully, some of that commitment "rubbed off" on you -- that is my intent and my fervent hope. Without a strong faith and marital commitment, I do not see how a spousal caregiver can provide the type of quality care that their spouse requires and deserves.

Another "twist" that I have included in my columns is the "Words To Care By" segment. I try to find various quotations that fit the theme of that particular column. Hopefully, those quotations provide you with some inspiration and encapsulate the message of that particular column.

You will be pleased to know that this website, www.caregivershome.com, is currently ranked #1 in elder-caregiving by Alexa.com which ranks websites based on traffic to each monitored website. Hopefully, some of that traffic is the result of your accessing this spousal caregiving link. I sincerely hope and pray that what we have discussed with you over the past year has been helpful to you and to your spouse.

And now for the rest of the story -- I need your help. Have these columns been of value to you? What types of issues and concerns would you like to see addressed in future columns? Are you willing to have "your story" shared in a future column? How can I improve the column?

I would appreciate you taking a few minutes of your valuable time and dropping me a line at ASKBill@caregivershome.com. Tell me what you think of this column and how I can improve it to help you. Your input will provide me with the wherewithal to continue the column in a manner which addresses your spousal caregiving issues and concerns. Thank you for your help.

WORDS TO CARE BY . . .

"It's not how much we give…

but how much love we put into giving."

Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta (1910-97)


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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