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Posted: November 02, 2006

Spousal Caregiving

In Pursuit of 'National Spousal Caregivers Month'

Bill Andrew

As in previous years, this November has been proclaimed National Family Caregivers Month by President Bush. November was also proclaimed National Alzheimer's Disease Awareness Month and National Hospice Month by the President.

These proclamations are issued annually by the President:

to draw attention to the many challenges facing family caregivers,

to advocate for stronger public policy to address family caregiving issues, and

to raise awareness about community programs that support family caregivers.

It should be obvious to the reader that caregivers of loved ones afflicted with Alzheimer's disease, or a related memory/cognitive disorder, are usually family caregivers in the most extreme sense of the word. It should also be obvious that caregivers of loved ones in hospice care are also family caregivers. This column addresses both of the above within the context of family caregiving -- just as spousal caregiving is family caregiving.

This presidential tradition asks all Americans to recognize and honor the family caregivers who take time out of their daily lives to improve the lives of family and friends. These selfless people -- including spousal caregivers -- often make great personal sacrifices to maintain the care and support that their loved ones require. Their caregiving assistance provides those who are ill, aged, or disabled the opportunity to stay in familiar surroundings (their own home) and remain part of their community.

In fact, recent statistics indicate that more than 80% of all home care services are provided by a family caregiver, often a spousal caregiver. These services are conservatively estimated to be worth over $260 billion a year -- twice as much as spent on paid home care and skilled nursing facilities combined! That is a lot of care provided by non-professional caregivers who are at great risk to their physical, emotional, and spiritual health.

I have a personal interest in all three of the above proclamations since I am a family caregiver for my wife, Carol, for whom I have provided 24/7 care for the past twelve years. Carol has late-stage Alzheimer's disease and is currently a home-bound hospice patient. In addition, I am, and have been, a spousal caregiver addressing all of the issues raised in the above presidential proclamations (check out the links above).

So, where is the presidential "National Spousal Caregivers Month" proclamation? It is estimated that more than 50 million people in the United States provide care for a chronically ill, disabled, or aged family member or friend during any given year. Many of those are spousal caregivers. Shouldn't we have our own "month?" While some will say that we are "covered" by the family caregiver proclamation, I say we should be recognized on our own, since spousal caregiving is often considered to be much more life-threatening to the spousal caregiver than other types of family caregiving. Many of us deal with the caregiving role in terms of various illnesses, disorders, or disabilities for our spouses that other family caregivers do not begin to approach.

Please check out the three links above, and then think about how we can influence the President to proclaim November as "National Spousal Caregivers Month" despite the fact that it is already National Family Caregivers Month.

Any ideas? How do we go about getting this done? Who do we approach to "start the ball rolling?" Does anybody out there have the appropriate contacts in Washington with the President's office to initiate "National Spousal Caregivers Month?"

Please share your thoughts on the above with other readers of this column by e-mailing me at Thank you.


"Love is but the discovery of ourselves in others,

and the delight in the recognition."

Alexander Smith (1830-67)

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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