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Posted: September 22, 2006

Spousal Caregiving

Some Head Scratching Caregiver Diversions: I've Got 'em Here!

Bill Andrew

As many of you may know, I am the 24/7 caregiver for my wife of 55 years, Carol, who has late-stage Alzheimer's disease. We have been on this "journey" for more than 12 years -- so I reckon that during that time I have learned a thing or two about spousal caregiving. One of the early lessons learned was that, despite the seriousness of the diagnosis and prognosis for the disease, the caregiver has to take care of himself as well as his loved one. Obviously, the caregiver must take care of their own physical, mental, and spiritual health in order to be there for their loved one.
But just as important is the approach the caregiver takes in providing quality care for their loved one. I have discussed various aspects of this approach in previous columns. In addition, I found there were two specific approaches that have helped me and other Alzheimer's caregivers. One is the use of humor -- "humor" your loved one and use humor to break the ice in critical situations that you may encounter. The other is the use of diversionary tactics to focus your loved one's attention on another subject or area of potential interest. As you may know, with Alzheimer's disease, the loved one's attention span becomes short, and by diverting them from the problem at hand, they focus on the new topic and have forget about the previous topic.
Since many of my recent columns have been either serious or humorous in nature, I thought that it would be a worthwhile change of pace to offer a bit of diversion. In doing so, I want to move our minds to a state of relaxation where we are not concerned about our loved ones or elements related to caregiving.  For example, did you know . . . 
  • More than half of the coastline of the entire United States is in Alaska? Maybe you knew that but I didn't -- and I found it pretty amazing. This is just one of the surprising items that I received in a recent email in a list entitled "interesting geography." Now, that fact diverted my attention from my caregiving concerns for the moment -- did it yours? Did it get you to thinking about something other than your caregiving responsibilities? 
Here are a few more gems from the list: 
  • Detroit: Woodward Avenue in Detroit, Michigan, carries the designation "M-1," named so because it was the first paved road anywhere.
  • Amazon: The Amazon River pushes so much water into the Atlantic Ocean that, more than 100 miles out to sea off the mouth of the river, one can dip fresh water out of the ocean. The volume of water in the Amazon River is greater than the next eight largest rivers in the world combined and three times the flow of all rivers in the United States.
  • Brazil: Brazil got its name from the nut, not the other way around. 
  • Canada: Canada has more lakes than the rest of the world combined. 
  • Ohio: There are no natural lakes in the state of Ohio, every one is man-made. 
  • Antarctica: Antarctica is the only land on our planet that is not owned by any country. Ninety percent of the world's ice covers Antarctica. This ice also represents seventy percent of all the fresh water in the world. However, Antarctica is essentially a desert. The average yearly total precipitation is about two inches. Although covered with ice, Antarctica is the driest place on the planet, with an absolute humidity lower than that of the Gobi desert. 
  • Damascus, Syria: Damascus was flourishing a couple of thousand years before Rome was founded in 753 BC, making it the oldest continuously inhabited city in existence. 
  • Rome, Italy: The first city to reach a population of 1 million people was Rome, in 133 B.C. There is a city called Rome on every continent. 
  • Los Angeles: Los Angeles's full name is El Pueblo de Nuestra Senora la Reina de los Angeles de Porciuncula - and can be abbreviated to 3.63% of its verbal size: L.A. 
  • Siberia: Siberia contains more than 25% of the world's forests. 
  • Sahara Desert: In the Sahara Desert, there is a town named Tidikelt, which did not receive a drop of rain for 10 years. Technically though, the driest place on Earth is in the valleys of the Antarctic near Ross Island. There has been no rainfall there for two million years. 
  • Spain: Spain literally means "the land of rabbits."
  • United States: The Eisenhower interstate highway system requires that one-mile in every five must be straight. These straight sections are usable as airstrips in times of war or other emergencies. 
Now then, didn't these facts about "interesting geography" divert your attention -- even for a few moments -- from the caregiving trials and tribulations that all caregivers encounter daily? It did mine. Perhaps you consider this foolishness; perhaps you consider it therapy. However you consider these facts or this column, I think that you will have to admit that it did get your mind off of the caregiving issues that you were concerned about before you read this column. If this is the case, then I have succeeded in helping you to refresh your inner self for the task at hand.
If you have other interesting geographic facts that you would like to share with other readers of this column, e-mail me at
"Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored."
Aldous Huxley (1894-1963)

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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