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Posted: July 27, 2006

Spousal Caregiving

How Is Your Caregiving 'Response-Ability'?

Bill Andrew

As caregivers, we all share a responsibility for delivering quality patient care to our loved ones. The dictionary defines responsibility as: 1. state, quality, or condition of being responsible. 2. job, duty, or area of concern. (Being your spouse's caregiver is your responsibility).

In turn, "responsible" is defined as: 1. having as a job, duty, or area of concern. (Caregivers are responsible for the direct care of their loved one.) 2. faithful to obligations; trustworthy; reliable. (Bill is a very responsible spousal caregiver).

As you read and review these definitions, I am sure you can relate to what it means to be a responsible spousal caregiver -- and to what your specific responsibility is for your loved one.

But have you also considered your "response-ability" as a spousal caregiver? What do I mean by that? I mean your "ability" to "respond" to the spousal caregiving needs and requirements of your loved one. While we all acknowledge that we are responsible spousal caregivers and have a specific responsibility for the direct care of our loved one, have you also considered your specific "ability" to provide that direct care -- to "respond" to your loved one's specific needs and requirements?

I am sure that you, like me, learned the hard way how to develop the "ability" to "respond" to our loved one's needs and requirements. No one taught us how to respond -- we had to develop this ability on our own. We often ran into many barriers that had to be overcome -- barriers that were placed in our way through no fault of our own. I thought that I would share with you some of the ways I have personally overcome these unnamed barriers and developed my personal "response-ability." I would refer you to a previous column A Prescription for Caregiving in which I discussed eight "practical points to ponder" that helped me then -- and are still helping me today.

As you may know, my wife, Carol, has late-stage Alzheimer's disease. I have been her 24/7 caregiver for the past 12 years. Alzheimer's disease presents many significant challenges that you may or may not encounter. But I figure that if these "practical points" have improved my "response-ability" for Carol, perhaps they will improve your personal "response-ability" as well.

Positive mental attitude. If you have a positive mental attitude, it is much easier to respond to any given situation that you might encounter with your loved one. Check out Accentuate the Positive! to see how you can improve your "response-ability."

Prayer. Never, ever, discount the power of prayer! I have found that on occasions when my "response-ability" is not up to par, prayer always comes to the rescue. Check out In Caregiving, It's Pray, Hope -- and Don't Worry! to see how prayer can improve your "response-ability."

Patience. If you don't at first succeed, try, try, try again! Patience is definitely a facilitator for your "response-ability." As I have said many times, patience is the key to successful caregiving.

Planning. If you have a caregiving plan and schedule in place, your "response-ability" will be easier with better results. Everything just seems to "fall into place."

Perspective. Your "response-ability" will be facilitated by placing everything you do for your loved one into the proper perspective. This is especially true if your loved one's reality is not your personal reality.

Praise. I find that my wife responds much better when I praise her efforts to do what I am trying to help her to do. Praise always works -- and that helps to improve my "response-ability."

Patter. By keeping up a "patter" of conversation with my wife, I find that it improves both of our "response-abilities" -- her ability to respond to me and my ability to respond to her.

Proper nutrition. While I have a definite nutritional protocol that I believe has provided Carol with the ability to survive as long as she has, I also have a definite nutritional protocol that I follow. It is my contention that my "response-ability" for Carol's needs and requirements is a direct result of that nutritional protocol. Refer to for more information on that nutritional protocol.

I have personally found that these "practical points" have definitely improved my "response-ability" to be able to provide a high level of 24/7 quality care for Carol over these past twelve years. Perhaps the above will help you to improve your personal "response-ability" as well. 

If you have tried some or all of these suggestions and would like to share your experience with other readers of this column, please e-mail me at


"The price of greatness is responsibility."

Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965)


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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