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Posted: December 09, 2004

Spousal Caregiving

Accentuate the Positive!

Bill Andrew

A major part of my ?prescription for caregiving? for Carol, my wife of over 53 years, is a positive mental attitude. This is especially important since Carol has late-stage Alzheimer?s disease and communication with her is often very difficult. Regardless of your spouse?s medical problems, I would recommend that if you have not already done so, that you adopt a positive mental attitude toward your spouse and your spousal caregiving role. It works for me, and it can work for you.

I try to focus on that positive mental attitude by remembering and singing that ?oldie? song Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive (Accentuate the Positive). Written by Johnny Mercer (lyrics) and Harold Arlen (music), it was a featured song in the 1944 Paramount movie Here Come The Waves starring Bing Crosby, who sang the song which was nominated for an Academy Award in 1945. Johnny Mercer and many other vocalists also recorded this song. Click here to listen to the old tune ? you?ll get my point.

The message of this song, as sung by Bing Crosby, is imbedded in these key lyrics?

You?ve got to accentuate the positive,
Eliminate the negative,
Latch on to the affirmative,
Don?t mess with Mister In-Between.

You?ve got to spread joy up to the maximum,
Bring gloom down to the minimum,
Have faith or pandemonium
Liable to walk upon the scene.

The message in these lyrics is very loud and clear -- ACCENTUATE THE POSITIVE! That means focus on a positive mental attitude. Go back and reread the above lyrics. What do they mean to you? To me, the key words are accentuate the positive and have faith. These are ?articles of faith? to me as I provide care for Carol.

Perhaps the original words, as written by Johnny Mercer, will help put everything into perspective for you:

Gather' round me, eviry body, gather 'round me while I preach some,
Feel a sermon comin' on me. The topic will be sin and that's what I'm agin.'
If you wanna hear my story, then settle back and just sit tight
While I start reviewin' the additude of doin' right.

You've got to ac-cent-tchu-ate the positive, e-lim-my-nate the negative,
Latch on to the affirmative, don't mess with Mister In-between.

You've got to spread joy up to the maximum, bring gloom down to the minimum,
Have faith, or pandemonium li'ble to walk upon the scene.

To illustrate my last remark, Johah in the whale, Noah in the Ark,
What did they do just when everything looked so dark?
"Man" they said, "We better ac-cent-tchu-ate the positive,
E-lim-my-nate the negative, latch on to the affirmative,
Don't mess with Mister In-between." No, don't mess with Mister In-between.

Perhaps we should put the above words into the author?s perspective. Johnny Mercer wrote or co-wrote some 1,500 songs of which some 750 were published. More than 100 became hits. He was greatly admired in the music industry, both personally and for his intelligent, optimistic lyrics. Mercer?s writing methods vary but he said, ?Usually, a title of simple idea comes first, and then the rest of the words just seem to fall into place.? When writing both the lyrics and the music, he usually wrote a few words and then pounded out the melody in his one-finger style. He then proceeded to the next batch of words saying, ?It?s all as easy as chopping up to 10 cords of wood per day!?

His writing style has been described as ?fits and starts? but almost always at the last minute. Accentuate the Positive was written, with Harold Arlen, in a brief afternoon. They needed a novelty number to finish off their score for the movie. Mercer remembered an old expression, ?accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative.? He noted: ?With a beginning like that, the rest of it practically wrote itself.? The tune is a hallelujah-like spiritual hymn, sung off-beat.

If Johnny Mercer?s writing style -- ?fits and starts? -- sounds familiar to you, it should. After all, isn?t that the way we spousal caregivers learned how to become a caregiver for our loved one?

Like many things in life, we learn by doing. We make mistakes and we learn from those mistakes. I know that I did! I learned that the keys to being a successful spousal caregiver are to accentuate the positive and to have a positive mental attitude. These ?words of wisdom? are the foundation of my personal spousal caregiving success. When people tell me, ?Bill, we don?t know how you do everything that you do, including providing such quality care for Carol,? I tell them that prayer comes first, but that ?accentuating the positive and eliminating the negative, latching onto the affirmative, and not messing with Mr. In-Between? helps a lot.

(This column is written in full appreciation and acknowledgement of copyright as owned in this instance by Johnny Mercer and Harold Arlen and administered by


?Then Jonah prayed to the Lord, his God, from the belly of the fish, saying,

?I called to the Lord, out of my distress, and he answered me???

Jonah 2:1, 2

?Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen?

By faith, Noah, warned about what was not yet seen?built an ark??

Hebrews 11:1, 7

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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