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Posted: December 22, 2005

Spousal Caregiving

The Gift That Keeps On Giving

Bill Andrew

Once again, it is that time of the year when we all think about giving presents to our family and friends. While some people insist that these are holidays to be celebrated without regard to religion, most people insist that these "holidays" be celebrated in the Christian tradition. In fact, did you know that the word "holiday" is derived from the Christian "holy day?" As spousal caregivers, we all know what "giving" is all about, don't we! And while we often cannot give presents, in the usual sense of the word, to our spouses, we can and do give of ourselves every day. And that is the mark of a true and compassionate person of all religious traditions. 
 
Christmas is that time of the year when Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Other religious denominations have special occasions that are also celebrated during this “season of joy” but they also tend to celebrate the Christmas holiday season. During this time of the year, regardless of religious belief, we all seem to have something in common -- giving.
 
Traditionally, we all celebrate this Christmas holiday season as a “season of giving” -- giving presents to our families and friends, giving support for the poor and the needy, giving financial aid to the many agencies seeking our support, and just giving of ourselves for the benefit of others. Many of us make sure that we go to the church of our choice to celebrate the birth of Jesus and the establishment of Christianity. We share our Christmas greetings and sentiments with our family and friends. These are all gifts of giving that we share with each other without a second thought.
 
As spousal caregivers, we are also giving at this time of the year. However, for us this giving is not a seasonal thing. Our gift of giving is a year-round event, day in and day out -- "the gift that keeps on giving!" And that is what caregiving is all about: giving of ourselves for the benefit of our loved ones, our spouses. This is really the ultimate gift of giving -- giving of ourselves! And isn’t that what true love is all about? 
 
Our Christmas gifts are typically wrapped in fancy paper, ribbons, and bows to make them look attractive to the intended recipients. The fancier the wrapping, the more conscious we are of the intent of the giver and the contents of the gift.
 
God has given us the ultimate gift in His Divine Son, Jesus Christ. He also comes wrapped in exquisite gift paper, ribbons, and bows. As spousal caregivers, let us open that Gift of God very tenderly and lovingly and share it with our spouses during this Christmas season. The gift I speak of is prayer, an essential element in our kit bag of resources as we provide the gift of giving for our loved one. And prayer is not unique to the Christian religion -- it is a key underpinning for all religions albeit in various forms and methods of presentation.
 
Regardless of the illness afflicting our spouses, they may still have memories of a Christmas Past (to paraphrase Charles Dickens.) Christmas Present is here and now.   We should live for the present moment because Christmas Future may never come for our loved one. Perhaps prayer will evoke past Christmas memories if your loved one is memory-impaired, as is my wife, Carol. I try to keep our religious and Christmas memories alive since they were, and are, such an important foundation for our love. I do this through attending church services, singing Christmas carols, listening to Christmas music, and other similar Christmas-related activities. And, often, I do get her attention, and that gives us Christmas Present.    God has been good . . . and perhaps we can look forward to Christmas Future.
 
As a spousal caregiver, I am sure that you have found yourself praying more and more for Divine guidance and assistance as you “learn the lessons” of caregiving. I know that prayer sustains both Carol and me on a daily basis. This Gift of God is especially highlighted during this Christmas season when everything around us is focused on the “reason for the season” -- the birth of Jesus Christ! Let us thank God for granting us the graces and blessings that we need to continue to provide our respective gifts of giving for our loved ones -- our spouses. Let us continue to give "the gift that keeps on giving.".
 
Carol and I wish you and yours a Blessed and Merry Christmas! May God be with you, your spouses, and your families during this Christmas holiday.

 

 
WORDS TO CARE BY ...

 "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace..."

(Luke 2:14)


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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