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Posted: September 07, 2006

Spousal Caregiving

All Caregivers Need a Break: The Bible Tells Us So!

Bill Andrew

Have you ever thought of the Bible as a source of reference for the need of caregiver recreation and rest?

I didn't either until I found the following in Mark 6:30-32: "The apostles returned to Jesus, and told Him all that they had done and taught. And He said to them, 'Come away by yourselves to a lonely place, and rest a while.' For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. And they went away in the boat to a lonely place by themselves."

Now, if Jesus recognized that the apostles had need for recreation and rest (respite time), shouldn't we spousal caregivers do likewise? The apostles obviously experienced stress and strain in taking the challenge of Jesus and going out into the world to spread the "good news" of the Gospel. Upon their return, they needed some "quiet time" to regroup for the next phase of their mission. Thus, Jesus suggested that they "rest a while."

As spousal caregivers, we also experience obvious stress and strain from all of the challenges of taking care of our spouses. Some of us have more need for respite time ("resting a while") than others -- it depends upon the diagnosis and prognosis of the care-recipient. Shouldn't we also "rest a while" to "recharge our batteries" periodically?

The word "respite" (pronounced "res-pit") may be new to some caregivers -- but it shouldn't be. It means "rest." And don't we all need some rest from our spousal caregiving duties? Respite care provides the spousal caregiver with a temporary break from the daily caregiving activities and responsibilities. Using respite services can support and strengthen the spousal caregiver's abilities to continue taking care of their loved one. If Jesus told His apostles to "rest a while," knowing that they needed that time to recover from their travels, shouldn't you and I as spousal caregivers also listen to Jesus and "rest a while?"

Respite care services can take many forms. The most common respite care services for caregivers are in-home care and adult day care centers, which are offered through community organizations, agencies, or residential care facilities. You may also be able to have family members, friends, or neighbors provide limited respite care support although these may not have professional training for the services provided.

In-home care services typically offer a range of options including:

Companion services typically provide the care-recipient with company and interactions. It may also include various activities.

Personal care or home health aide services typically assist with feeding, dressing, toileting, bathing, and exercising.

Homemaker or maid services typically provide housekeeping, laundry, shopping, and meal preparation.

Skilled care services typically help with medications and related medical requirements.

Adult day care centers typically are staffed locations where the care-recipient can be with others in a safe and caring environment. Skilled staff lead planned activities such as music, games, and art programs. Meals and transportation are often provided. When choosing an adult day care center for your spouse, ask these questions of the staff:

What are the hours, fees, and services provided?

What types of program activity do you offer?

Are clients with dementia separated from other participants or are they included in general activities.

Is the staff trained on dementia issues? This is important since many elders in day care centers have some type of dementia problem.

What types of healthcare professionals are on staff? How is this staff screened to make sure that they won't abuse the clients?

How are emergency situations addressed?

How do you ensure the safety of the clients?

Is transportation available?

Do you provide snacks and meals?

Finding the right respite service for your spouse may present significant challenges. For example, your spouse may not like the respite person or the adult day care facility (I have personal experience in these areas). My wife, Carol, who has late-stage Alzheimer's disease, had personality problems with a number of the respite persons provided by the agencies. In fact, so did I! Regarding the adult day care facility, after two visits, that was the end of it!

So how do you find the right respite care services for your spouse? I would start with these resources:

Contact the local association that relates to your spouse's diagnosis and prognosis. In my case, that was the Alzheimer's Association. They helped me determine which respite services I needed and provided referrals for my area.

Contact the Eldercare Locator to connect with your local Area Agency on Aging or local community service. They can help you to identify local respite care services. Call 1-800-677-1116 or log on to their website.

Search for respite care services by state or service at the National Respite Care Locator website.

Check with your church or local religious organizations. They often offer respite services, albeit on a limited basis, for community members.

Consider asking or hiring a family member, friend, or neighbor to spend time with your spouse while you take a break.

Why should you consider respite care for your loved one -- and yourself? Because, as a spousal caregiver, you are at a greater health risk than your loved one! Think about it. That's because by devoting yourself to the needs of your spouse, you may tend to neglect your own health. You may not recognize or you may ignore the signs of illness, exhaustion, or depression that you are experiencing. But recent studies have proven what family caregiver advocates have known for a long time: providing care to someone that you love -- whether full-time, part-time, or long distance -- takes a huge toll on caregiver health, physically, mentally, and spiritually.

A whole body of research now demonstrates the correlation between caregiving, stress, and poor health. It is now recognized that the stress and strain of caregiving results in any number of long-term health effects for all family caregivers, including:

1. Infectious diseases

2. Depression

3. Sleep deprivation

4. Premature aging

5. Higher mortality (death) rate

These findings mean that the cumulative effects of the stress of caregiving are not laughing matter.

No wonder that Jesus told His apostles to "Come away by yourselves to a lonely place, and rest a while." If that advice is good enough for Jesus and His apostles, shouldn't it be good enough for you and I as caregivers? I know it is for me! Is it for you?

If you would like to share your experiences of finding and providing respite care for your spouse with other readers of this column, email me at Thank you, and may God bless you.


"Come away by yourselves to a lonely place,

and rest a while."

Mark 6:31

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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